MELBOURNE: Football Australia (FA) have picked eight teams to compete in a national second-tier competition set to kick off in 2025 but the governing body gave no indication it was considering a promotion-relegation system linked with the top flight A-League.
Seven of the clubs have roots in the National Soccer League, the country’s previous top division before it folded in 2004 and was replaced by the A-League the following year.
They include Sydney-based APIA Leichhardt, Marconi Stallions, Sydney Olympic and Sydney United; Melbourne-based South Melbourne and Preston Lions; and Wollongong Wolves, a club based in the coastal city south of Sydney.
Avondale FC, based in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, is the sole club without NSL pedigree. FA said another two-to-four clubs would be confirmed in the coming months for the launch of the 10-12 team National Second Tier (NST) in 2025.
Most of the eight confirmed clubs were formed decades ago by Australia’s Southern European migrant communities.
Tensions between rival fan-bases occasionally spilled over on NSL match-days, and crowd violence was blamed in part for the league’s decline before it folded due to financial problems.
The migrant community-aligned clubs were left out of the A-League set up by former FA boss Frank Lowy but their entry into the NST brings them back into the national fold.
“I think this is essentially a progressive move,” FA chief James Johnson told a press conference on Monday.
“It’s an opportunity for clubs that have a lot of history in the game, that have a high opportunity to grow and develop.”
Though the national men’s and women’s soccer teams are beloved by local sports fans, the domestic competition has struggled for market share in a country dominated by Australian Rules football and rugby league.
Soccer pundits have long pushed for a promotion-relegation system to drive interest in the sport but A-League owners, some of whom have spent fortunes propping up clubs in what is currently a closed-shop model, are resistant to the idea.
While Johnson declined to comment on the prospect of promotion-relegation between the top two divisions, he said it might be feasible between the NST and a future third tier derived from the current, state-based National Premier Leagues.
“It’s not on the table at the moment, but it’s something that we can talk about at a later point in time,” he added.