2018 Womens Changes

On Friday, Football NSW announced the changes to the Women’s competitions for the 2018 season onward. The full document can be found here.

The overall decisions from the board are a mixed bag. There are some positive changes, as well as some that will (at least in the view of this writer) hinder the development of the game. This is especially a worry as UEFA has come out with some new research showing links between football and self confidence for females. Those findings can be found on the BBC’s website here.

To start things off there are changed to the Skills Acquisition Program (SAP) that look very appealing, providing stronger development and pathways for girls.

  1. Full time program preferred but Part Time SAP Program to remain beyond 2017.
  2. Maintain current mixed SAP opportunities for girls.
  3. Mandatory girl’s SAP licences for all NPL and NPL2 clubs.
  4. Addition of U13 to girls SAP for season 2018.
  5. Addition of the U11 age group to girl’s SAP for 2018.

Credit: FNSW FB Page

This creates a stronger pathway for younger girls to get to the elite levels of the games. By starting SAP from age 11, they will be able to develop the skills necessary to increase the skill level of the competitions.

Also scheduled for girls youth is the addition of U14s to NPL 1 and NPL 2. So girls youth will have U14, U15 and U17. Another good, positive change.

However there will be a downside, and it is the main change that comes as a surprise.

See, Football NSW released the document and in their words: “To deliver a competition structure that facilitates long-term growth in participation and leads to improvement in quality of players, coaches, and referees by way of specific review of”.  So why does their main change include scrapping State League for seniors?

Football NSW has decided to implement the following changes next season for 1st Grade and Reserve Grade:

  1. 10 teams in NPL 1 (including the 2 institute programs being FNSW Institute and Emerging Jets)
  2. 10 teams in NPL 2
  3. 8-10 teams in a 3rd tier comprising of clubs and association squads. However this league would consist of 3 age grades being U15, U15 and U17 only.
  4. NPL 1 and NPL 2 to continue with no age restriction
  5. Promotion/Relegation to be determined by Club Championship points from 1st Grade and Reserve Grade only (3x 1st Grade, 1x Reserve Grade)
  6. All Clubs must meet criteria for entry – there is no special consideration for Country Branches apart from a part time SAP program.

Effectively, they will be taking the 1p teams across the NPL 1 and NPL 2 competitions, possibly adding 1 from the State League to create 2 equal NPL competitions with no byes. So far this is a positive change, as it means more football.

Credit: FNSW FB Page

However, what will happen to the 6 teams from the State League that don’t make it into one of the 2 NPL grades? This would mean that 6 teams + the 2/4 extra FNSW want to find will not be fielding a senior side, only up to U17s. This would mean that roughly 80 women after this season would be out of a team as they would be too old to play in the 3rd tier.

On top of that, anywhere from 60-100 women a year afterwards would be out of a team once they turn 17. For women in the Sydney area, it’s possible that they might find an NPL team to join. However for teams such as Western NSW Mariners, the job is harder. Based out in country NSW, players already have to travel lengthy periods of time to attend matches, if they were forced to travel to Sydney every week for matches and training, is it really worth it?

I can see what FNSW are trying to do but ultimately it seems to be a step backwards. Why limit the opportunities for the state league women? With no pathway for these clubs to be promoted into the NPL it seems to be a dead end.

Let’s remain hopeful that it all works out and if it doesn’t, let’s hope it’s fixed the year after.

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