(AAFC) National Second Division: A Pipe Dream?

In [ALL POSTS], [FEATURED], [ORIGINAL], [THE GAME] by Boris GligorevicLeave a Comment

Earlier this month, the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) released their preferred model for a national second division which would underpin the A-League.

Whilst the AAFC and their supporters continue to hype up their vision, it is by no means a ground-breaking time for Australian football. As the AAFC themselves have said, their blueprint provides a talking point at the very least.

In the face of Football Federation Australia (FFA), the AAFC have provided their talking point which has the football community talking. While the FFA rapidly shot the blueprint down, they also came back with their tail between their legs. FFA CEO David Gallop extended an invite to the AAFC to discuss their vision and how it may tie in to Australian football.

In a nutshell, the AAFC’s blueprint is:
• 12-16 teams
• No promotion or relegation to the A-League initially but within 5 years
• $1m salary cap for a 20 player squad
• $2.5m annual budget per club, including $150,000 licence fee per season to assist league operating costs
• League starts in 2019/20 and runs simultaneously alongside the A-League

Like most within our community, I am a fan of promotion and relegation. It adds a different dynamic to the sport I love and it provides an immediate point of difference to the other sporting codes in Australia.

But I am also a realist.

I don’t believe there is enough money to sustain a second division, nor is there enough money to sustain individual clubs that would make up the league.

How have I come to this conclusion?

Simple. In NSW alone, arguably the centre of Australia both domestically and globally, is home to a minimum 29 professional sporting teams across rugby league, Australian rules football, cricket, rugby union, ice hockey, field hockey, and netball.

The fight for the sponsorship dollar is at an all-time high, particularly when attendance in the A-League is plateaued (and decreased in the NRL according some).

Luckily for me, there are people in a position for a living to research and document costs in running a national second division competition.

The AAFC have done their own research in costs needed per club and league operating costs. They found that each club would require an annual $2.5m budget. In this would be a licence fee to play in the league, which the AAFC have valued at $150,000 per season. The salary cap would be $1m per season and squads would be limited to two visa players (either from the AFC or Oceania confederations).

The first thing that should alarm anybody reading those figures is the salary cap. Averaging out the salary cap across 20 players is $50,000. That figure isn’t even the minimum wage in the A-League.

To further put some of those costs into context, the National Premier Leagues competition in NSW is administered by Football NSW. Most clubs operate on a budget of somewhere between $1m to $1.5m. Most struggle to come up with this money (unless you’ve got a synthetic pitch, which you can use as a good source of income).

Player pay isn’t that great and every player has a job. They’ll need a second job in the AAFC’s model too.

Marketing and promotion by the clubs and Football NSW is comparable to the A-League. That is, non-existent.

For a club that wins the Premiership, they are rewarded with a paltry $25,000 from Football NSW. Winning the Championship, while a great feeling, only garners $35,000 in prize money.

All this in a league where crowds are just horrendous.

Clearly it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the key question is how clubs successfully maintain themselves every year. That’s a discussion for another day.

Professional Footballers Association chief executive John Didulica told AAP: “Conceptually everyone sees a huge benefit of growing football’s footprint and adding another level of professionalism. The challenge will be the detail, and once you actually start developing the detail, you need to see if it works and achieves the objectives it needs to achieve.”

Earlier this year, the PFA announced that they had conducted their own research in cost associated with a national second division. Their research found that a club would need $5.5m per year while the league would need a minimum of $10m per year.

Some quick calculations between the AAFC model and the PFA research show:
• AAFC has a $3m deficit per team compared to the PFA research
• AAFC’s licence fee would only bring in $1.8m per season to cover league operating costs, $8.2m short of PFA’s research for league operating costs

Essentially, AAFC is already far behind the eight ball. In their first season, they would already be a minimum of $44.2m short (based on a 12-team league) in what would actually be needed in terms of club funding and league operating cost shortfall.

So where will the $44.2m come from? Magic trees? Magic bean trades?

Questions that need to be asked are things like:
• Who will cover travel costs?
• How will superannuation be paid?
• Is there actually enough money for a second division?

The issue is not one of trying to shoot down a national second division. The issue will always firstly be about money and if there is enough of it to support a second division.

With the AAFC confirming they want to start the league in 2019/20, the question needs to be asked, how much will it all cost then?

– By Boris Gligorevic for [FC BALLER]

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