New direction: Ipswich clubs involved in football shake-up
AS Western Pride's senior men's side clings desperately to hopes of remaining in next year's National Premier Leagues series, another major development could shape the future of Ipswich regional football.
Football Queensland has released its Junior Competition Structure Review, offering a series of proposals to provide "a better model'' for current NPL and Queensland Premier League clubs in the future.
Clubs like Western Pride (NPL) and the Ipswich Knights (QPL) can provide submissions based on what Football Queensland calls "a comprehensive review into the structures and delivery'' of its competitions across Queensland.
The major overhauls proposed centre on the junior NPL Queensland and Football Queensland Premier League competitions.
The three proposals are based on a premise that the current promotion and relegation model is not necessarily the most balanced way of recognising and supporting skill levels across the grades.
In Football Queensland's presentation, it was stated that: "The purpose of this review is to make necessary modifications to exciting competition structures that are in the best interests of the game, to address issues that have been identified within the established leagues to deliver the greatest development and pathway opportunities to the boys and girls who participate across Queensland''.
The game-changing proposals were outlined at a Football Queensland meeting.
A consultation process has started with clubs given a time frame to respond.
Under the first proposal, the NPL and QPL competitions could be combined next year into two conferences - Maroon and White.
Western Pride and the Ipswich Knights would be part of the NPL Maroon White Division along with Brisbane Roar, Capalaba, Gold Coast Knights, Gold Coast United, Holland Park, Lions, Logan, Redlands United, South West Queensland and Souths United.
Teams in the NPL Maroon Division could be Brisbane City, Brisbane Strikers, Eastern Suburbs, Mitchelton, Moreton Bay, Olympic, Peninsula Power, Southside Eagles, Sunshine Coast Fire and Wanderers, Wide Bay and Wolves.
After grading games in each conference, the top six from each conference could make up the 13 team NPL competition next year.
The bottom six teams from each conference at the end of grading would play in the 12-side SEQ League.
That would eliminate promotion and relegation, with grading each year to determine where teams play.
Under the second proposal, junior teams would be separate to the senior structures and play in a combined NPL and QPL competition next year.
The two conferences would be played under similar guidelines to the first proposal during a 22-week season.
A third proposal covers the NPL girls' competition.
Three additional clubs would be invited to express interest in joining two leagues created with eights clubs in eight. These would be formed under the same grading guidelines.
Western Pride general manager Pat Boyle said Ipswich's current NPL club backed Football Queensland's overall junior vision for the future, making youth football separate to the senior program under the first proposal.
"We support the decoupling of the juniors,'' Boyle said. "We also support the idea of a Maroon and White Conference.
"It's about player development and it always has been in the NPL juniors.''
As other clubs finalise their submissions, Pride have already responded to Football Queensland's call for feedback.
While largely agreeing with the proposed new direction for juniors, Boyle said Pride offered further suggestions.
"We'd like to see, instead of the 11 round grading process, we'd like to see a full home and away season and then all teams cross over in the final series,'' he said.
An additional request was that under-18 boys be moved from the senior competition to proposed 2020 junior program. That would mean the under 18 teams join the existing boys'' under 13, U14, U15 and U16 competitions.
As for the junior girls' proposal, Boyle was unsure where the three extra teams (and additional licences) would come from.
However, he said the Ipswich club always backed measures to improve the junior girls' pathway.
"At Western Pride, we support anything in terms of women's football,'' he said. "And we're happy to move forward with whatever Football Queensland suggest because at the end of the day, Western Pride having a women's licence is the most important thing.''
Football Queensland officials presented the junior proposals at a meeting at Perry Park in Brisbane.
"It's not a rush rush job but in terms of trials coming up and families wanting to know what's happening next year, we'd like to be publicising it as soon as possible,'' Boyle said.
Look out for a story this week on what the Knights think about the proposals.