The Manly Warringah Football Association Mens Premier League competition will expand to 12 clubs for the 2020 season as part of a strategy to strengthen the entire football ecosystem on the Northern Beaches.
The decision, which was ratified by a vote of the 17 Clubs last night, follows an eight month consultation process that started at the 2018 AGM, and continued at the 2019 Premier League/AL1 Forum, a Working Party made up of coaches and administrators and finally the MWFA Council of Clubs.
The decision to expand the Mens Premier League competition was made to give more clubs an opportunity to aspire to play in the highest competition and ensure local juniors saw a pathway at their existing clubs from the youth ranks through to the Premier League.
This decision to expand the Mens Premier League is about enhancing the entire football ecosystem, said MWFA President Jeff Smit. The MWFA Mens Premier League is a strong competition but the structure was creating angst amongst clubs losing players, particularly local juniors, to Premier League clubs.
This decision is about taking a step towards giving more young players a reason to believe they can play in the Premier League with their own club. There is still an onus on clubs to offer an environment and pathway that their juniors are happy with but this allows more clubs to aspire to that target.
We are striving to look after the best interests of all clubs and the game and this decision, which has been made after some healthy debate at various stages, will have benefit throughout the age groups and assist with retention of players at the traditional drop off years of 16-18.
The changes will also see the creation of a Play Off each year, which adds another level of excitement to the end of the season.
Each season the winners of AL1 will be invited by the MWFA to move up to the Premier League but the team that finishes second in the AL1s will also take on the team that finishes second bottom in the Premier League for a place in the following seasons competition.
As it stands we have 10 teams in the competition and one team can progress to the competition the following year, said MWFA CEO David Mason said. Thats 11 out of 17 clubs. With these changes we now have up to 14 clubs that are either in the competition or can aspire to that level through promotion or a playoff.
The process also included debate about whether there was enough talent to increase the competition and ensuring the AL1 competition remained competitive and strong.
Over recent years, The MWFA and its clubs have worked hard to increase coach education and the standard of coaching for junior players through the Club Coach Coordinator program and hosting C Licence courses, Mason said.
This has led to an enhancement of the coaching at grassroots level, which has seen a rise in the quality of players at the clubs. Our clubs and coaches have invested a lot of time and energy into this and we are confident there is enough quality.
The transition from 10 to 12 Clubs will see the following process at the end of the 2019 season:
- The Winners of the AL1 competition will be invited to participate in the 2020 MWFA Premier League (providing that Club are not currently in the Premier League)
- The Runners Up of the AL1 competition will be invited to participate in the 2020 MWFA Premier League (providing that Club are not currently in the Premier League)
- The 3rd-placed team in the AL1 Competition (providing that Club are not currently in the Premier League) will face the team that finishes the 2019 Premier League season in last place in a one-off Play Off match
The MWFA also yesterday sent a survey to all female players aged 14 18 to get a better understanding of what shapes the decision for young girls when deciding to continue playing beyond the junior years.
More than 30% of MWFA players are females and the growth of the womens game has been consistently strong but like all sports suffers from drop off at that 16 to 18 age group. This has a cascade effect into the senior ranks.
The survey results will be used to shape the future of female football competitions at junior and senior level to work towards a structure that allows a balance between social and competitive football and retain as many players as possible.
That structure will be framed against the strategy of growth for womens football at all levels.
Womens football continues to grow and we want to make sure we are framing our structures around retaining the teenage girls to move through to our senior ranks, Mason said.
It is a delicate balancing act between providing opportunities for girls to play in strong senior competitions and understanding that growth across all age groups and clubs is essential.
Ultimately we are asking girls to give us an insight into what frames their decision so we can put in place a system where they can continue to play with either competition or enjoyment as their primary focus in an environment where all clubs can thrive.
The more girls continuing to play means the easier it will be to satisfy both ends of the landscape.