Heidelberg United back in the top tier. Photo: Kimberley KiKi Grace.
Eight Greek sponsored clubs have been selected in the new NPL and we see Heidelberg United back in the top tier.
The future seems bright for the National Premier League (NPL), with Victoria finally settling on a program and releasing the licenses to successful clubs, months after the initial due date.
Eight Greek sponsored clubs will join 22 clubs in the Victorian NPL -split into two tiers, NPL and NPL1.
VPL greats Bentleigh Greens, South Melbourne, last year’s winners Northcote City and Oakleigh Cannons are all booked for the top NPL league, while some suburban local teams like Box Hill United, Brunswick City and Kingston City all join in the lower NPL1.
The new system will see the return of Heidelberg United in the top ranks after it was relegated last season and has been battling ever since to return. “It was obviously disappointing for us to be relegated the year before but we always had intentions of making our way back into the premier league in 2014,” Heidelberg secretary, John Lioupas tells Neos Kosmos.
“In light of the fact the NPL was going to go ahead regardless, we felt like we needed to be in a good position to do that.
“We’ve achieved a couple of the objectives, one was to win promotion and two to get into the new competition.”
The uncertainty that has surrounded the Victorian NPL roll out has left many clubs tired and frustrated. While they are happy to see progress, it’s hard not to notice the fatigue and indifference that has come from the drawn out and messy process.
It took seven months to get the Football Federation of Victoria (FFV) to listen to the concerned clubs’ calls for a review of the initial NPL proposal, and escalated to court proceedings which eventually got the FFA involved.
It’s been a headache many clubs would like to forget.
“We’ve had a lot of obstacles along the way that have pretty much been created by our governing body the FFV,” Mr Lioupas says.
“Luckily and thankfully the FFA has got a bit more of a concept around logic and they’ve come in at the right moment to at least put things on the right track.”
“It’s a positive step.”
For South Melbourne’s Tom Kalas, one of the two main campaigners for the dissenting clubs, the announcement of the new structure this week was a huge relief. “The structure of the NPL in Victoria is basically what we designed back in August /September last year,” he tells Neos Kosmos. “We’re very, very pleased that’s what’s being implemented.”
Starting on March 14, the new season will see Victoria go head to head with classic VPL teams and for the first time regional teams.
The fixtures at least will be much more interesting for the clubs and the fans. With regional teams up against local greats, and the chance to play nationally, the new league won’t be short of blockbuster games.
“Now there’s a national flavour,” Mr Kalas says.
“The premiers (winners) of the year go straight to the finals (nationally). There’s no finals series in Victoria, there will be finals around Australia to determine the national champion.”
Mr Kalas revealed South Melbourne and Ballarat Red Devils are in talks to see if they can secure the first fixture together, showing just how keen the regional teams are in competing in a state wide competition.
This year is the last year for the NPL rollout, and will see Northern NSW, Victoria and Western Australia join the ranks of the eight Federations already in the NPL for the first time.
The FFA says they want to see integration between the NPL and the A-League, whether it is via player pathways or eventually relegation and promotion, that could give lower league clubs some much needed limelight.
“This year we will see youth teams from some Hyundai A-League clubs compete in their respective NPL competition to ensure that our most talented players maximise their development opportunities by being able to play competitive football twelve months a year,” FFA CEO David Gallop said at the NPL launch this week.
The opening game of NPL 2014 season will be in South Australia on Friday 21st February between two of Australia’s most successful football clubs in West Adelaide and Adelaide City.
The National Premier Leagues 2014 Finals Series will begin on the weekend of 20/21 September with the National Premier Leagues 2014 Grand Final to be played on the weekend of 4/5 October.
Fixtures and confirmation about promotion and relegation frameworks for seniors in Victoria will be released on February 26 and NPL rules of competition will be released on March 4.
Full list of clubs selected for the NPL in Victoria: NPL: Ballarat Red Devils, Bentleigh Greens, Dandenong Thunder, Goulburn Valley Suns, Green Gully Cavaliers, Heidelberg United, Hume City, Melbourne Knights, Northcote City, Oakleigh Cannons, Pascoe Vale, Port Melbourne Sharks, South Melbourne and Werribee City. NPL 1: Avondale Heights, Bendigo Amateur Soccer League, Box Hill United, Brunswick City, Dandenong City, Eastern Lions, FC Bulleen Lions, Kingston City, Moreland Zebras, North Geelong Warriors, Richmond, Springvale White Eagles, St Albans Saints, Sunshine George Cross, Surf Coast and Whittlesea Ranges.
source: Neos Kosmos