IN A huge boost for grassroots football across the country Football Federation Australia has announced the launch of the National Premier Leagues for semi-professional state-based competitions.
FFA chief executive David Gallop announced the changes yesterday and said the introduction of the NPL model was a "landmark in the development of Australian football".
Each state and territory will still run their NPL competition but the winter season will culminate in a national playoff.
"The semi-pro state league clubs have long been the engine room of Australia's player development system and have always provided a local focus of football passion across the nation," Gallop said yesterday.
"Today's launch of the National Premier Leagues model gives the state-based competitions the status and organisational structure they deserve.
"This model is the product of National Competitions Review, a hugely important piece of policy development over the past two years.
"I commend our Member Federations, the constituent clubs and the FFA staff for their commitment to the cause. This work will shape football across the nation for years to come."
Some 70 clubs across Queensland, NSW, South Australia, ACT and Tasmania will implement changes this year, while Victoria, Northern NSW and Western Australia propose to roll out the NCR changes in 2014.
The Northern Territory will adopt a partial model.
"The NCR is a key outcome of our strategic plan which has the objective to better connect community football to the professional tier," Gallop said.
"The National Premier Leagues model is a vital conduit from the grassroots to the Hyundai A-League. The strategy is sound, but now all parties need to redouble their efforts to ensure the implementation brings the desired results.
"In short, our aim is to see highly qualified coaches employed by stable and well-run NPL clubs producing better Australian players from under-12 to under-18, then under-20s and finally to senior ranks."
Gallop also said there could be relegation and promotion into the A-League within five years and he also re-affirmed the FFA's commitement to the FFA Cup.
Gallop said it was a "matter of when, not if" but said it was still not feasible to kick it off in the short-term.
The FFA had previously mooted a possible launch this year for the competition but decided to wait until after the new TV deal announcement.
Gallop admitted it was still too soon for a new competition, but acknowledged the overwhelming support the idea had received in the football community.