December 22, 2009
AUCKLAND – The New Zealand Football Championship is set to increase its focus on youth development and could be expanded to 10 teams as early as next season, New Zealand Football (NZF) announced today as part of the outcomes of a wide-ranging competitions review.
Pledging $450,000 over the next three seasons to the national league and National Youth League, NZF reaffirmed its commitment to the franchise-based format of the NZFC, currently in its sixth year and basking in the shared glow of its champion Auckland City’s success at the FIFA Club World Cup and football’s overall resurgence.
On top of the three-year investment the governing body also set aside $50,000 each year for any New Zealand team winning the OFC Champions League to assist with their preparation for the FIFA Club World Cup.
It also outlined changes to the National Youth League, Chatham Cup, and Women’s Knockout Cup while deferring a decision on the National Women’s League until April to consider the best competition for elite women.
NZF Chief Executive Michael Glading stressed New Zealand’s national league would remain amateur and entry would be by invitation only but said applications would be considered from new teams wishing to join the league in the 2010/11 season, although the number of teams would be capped at 10.
“Retaining the league’s amateur status is crucial to the league’s sustainability and therefore its role in developing players and officials, something with which it has had a large degree of success in recent seasons,” Glading said.
“Ben Sigmund, Jeremy Brockie, Chris Wood and Marco Rojas have all made the jump to professional football from the NZFC in recent seasons, while Jacob Spoonley, Andy Barron, Jimmy Bannatyne and Aaron Scott have joined the likes of Ivan Vicelich in the All Whites, and we have two referees on the cusp of World Cup selection as well.
“We’ll continue to concentrate New Zealand’s top domestic football talent across a limited number of teams, but we feel the time may be right to open the door to new franchises that can compete on and off the field.”
All eight existing franchises, currently in the final year of three-year licenses, will be invited to reapply.
Glading said the Wellington Phoenix could apply to field a reserve/youth team in the NZFC despite facing unique obstacles as the only professional club in New Zealand.
“The door is still open for the Phoenix but there are still significant hurdles to jump in terms of accommodating a professional team in an amateur competition, not least in the eyes of FIFA.”
To gain entry to the league, and retain it on a two-year rolling contract, franchises will be required to meet a set of criteria related to performance, governance and facilities.
The exact details of criteria are yet to be finalised but the fielding of a youth development squad in the National Youth League and adhering to a new framework of financial reporting back to NZF will be cornerstones of any license.
There are major changes to the National Youth League and its integration with the national league, with the number of youth development players in national league squads to be increased to a minimum of five (currently four) and at least two youth players included in any NZFC matchday squad. Conversely, up to two overage players will be permitted to play for their club’s National Youth League side on any given matchday.
To bring the youth league in line with two-yearly FIFA World Cup cycles, the age limit (currently U-19) will alternate between seasons and be linked to eligibility for upcoming the next FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The Chatham Cup and Women’s Knockout Cup format will remain largely unchanged with cross-federation ties starting one round earlier in the South and lower North Islands. The Northern region is already integrated from round one. Both competitions will be restricted to teams affiliated to NZF and one of its seven member federations.
The competitions review, lead by a panel including former hockey Olympian Selwyn Maister and barrister Simon Jefferson, hit the road midway through the year engaging clubs, fans and federations up and down the country before presenting its recommendation to New Zealand Football.
Football in New Zealand
Competitions Review Summary
New Zealand Football Championship (National League)
National Youth League
National Women’s League
Women’s Knock-Out Cup