Fears have been raised about the financial viability of the proposed national second division following Queensland football powerhouse Lions FC’s shock decision to snub the competition.
The former NSL outfit was a surprise omission this week from a nationwide Football Australia list of 32 clubs which had submitted expressions of interest in being part of national second-tier competition mooted to start next year.
Backed by a hugely successful licenced club which generates “10s of millions of dollars” annually in revenue, Lions had been expected – at the very least – to take part in the EOI process.
However, Lions general manager Rob Scanlon said the club wasn’t prepared to take the financial risk.
“We don’t see it as being financially viable,” said Scanlon, who added that it would cost $2.2m to $2.5m each year to fund a team under FA’s model.
“We want to play at the highest level possible without putting the club in financial stress.”
Lions FC is a dominant force in the NPL Queensland competition.
It is also the “parent club” of A-League franchise Brisbane Roar, but is no longer associated with them.
Scanlon admitted the financial crisis Lions found themselves in after funding the Roar was also a reason for rejecting the national second division proposal.
“It’s probably a case of once bitten, twice shy,” he said.
Should the national second division go ahead, the 10 to 16 clubs involved will be fully professional and won’t be able to compete in their state’s top NPL competition.
However, Scanlon did not believe that would significantly weaken the NPL competitions, claiming a lot of top players would prefer to maintain their semi-professional status, with their football income complementing the money they made from their regular jobs.
Should the national second division not come to fruition, Scanlon said Lions would be prepared to take part in FA’s alternate idea of a “phased group-based” competition model which would use the various NPL competitions to decide the make-up of teams.
FA is in the process of evaluating the EOI responses. Short-listed clubs will soon be invited to submit “detailed proposals”.
FA chief executive officer James Johnson said: “We are thrilled with the level of interest shown in the EOI phase and the calibre of clubs which have expressed their interest.
“It is also pleasing to see that we have received submissions from right across Australia, demonstrating that our football clubs have a deep desire and aspiration to compete at a national level.”
Clubs which have submitted EOIs: ACT: Canberra Croatia, Gungahlin United; NSW: APIA Leichhardt, Blacktown City, Fraser Park, Marconi Stallions, Rockdale Ilinden, Sutherland Sharks/Cronulla Sharks, Sydney Olympic, Sydney United 58, Wollongong Wolves; NNSW: Valentine; Queensland: Brisbane City, Brisbane United (Wynnum Wolves, Brisbane Strikers, Virginia United), Gold Coast Knights, Gold Coast United, Olympic FC, Peninsula Power, Sunshine Coast Fire. SA: Adelaide City, Football SA (Campbelltown City, North Eastern, MetroStars, West Torrens Birkalla), Playford City; Tasmania: South Hobart; Victoria: Avondale, Bentleigh Greens, Brunswick Juventus, Green Gully, Heidelberg United, Melbourne Knights, Preston Lions, South Melbourne; WA: Spearwood Dalmatinac/Cockburn City.