Soccer: Act now or become 'four-club league'

By Anendra Singh

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Not providing "real value" in competitions could reduce soccer in Hawke's Bay to a four-club affair, according to Graeme Hill.

The code's guardians need to act with some haste in adopting a competition structure based on the English Premier League (EPL) if they are to avoid a "downward spiral", Hill says after his broadside at Central Football at the weekend.

"The EPL is the most successful competition in the world so why not look at why it's thriving," says the president of Maycenvale United, whose flagship team were relegated from the Central League winter competition after winning promotion three years ago.

On October 8, last year, Hill outlined his proposal to a "Central Football All Clubs Meeting" at the Napier City Rovers clubrooms.

The proposal, which was forwarded to all clubs' committees for their perusal, gave clubs a timeline with final feedback in February but it didn't see the time of day as the club competitions kicked off last Saturday.

In his submission, Hill primarily suggests Hawke's Bay should adopt promotion/relegation competitions - HB Premiership League and HB Championship League.

Below that will be men's specific-purpose club leagues, devoid of the no promotion/relegation concept - reserve grade, over-35s, youth development and two social grades.

"We're lucky to have 14 to 16 clubs here but we've got to ask people what do they want out of their clubs?"

With different regions, such as Manawatu and Taranaki having different problems, the Bay nursery owner claims all he did was look at the structure in reverse.

Embracing Gisborne in the Bay leagues is paramount, he feels, because that's what the region has done traditionally.

"The system now says we have leagues all the way down where teams can go up if they win at the end of a season but it's dumb because division four teams don't want to be promoted."

Hypothetically speaking, Hill champions a six-team premiership and an eight-team championship competitions at the elite level but clubs can only have one team in either of the two leagues.

The premiership in its inaugural season would, for argument's sake, invite Taradale, Rovers, Gisborne, Maycenvale, Havelock North and Napier Marist to play three rounds of 15 games with three-point referee control.

They would each pay $1500 in entry fees to compete for a total pool prize of $20,000 with the winners taking $8000, runners-up $4500, 3rd $3500, 4th $2500 and 5th $1500.

The sixth place-getter would be relegated to the second-tier championship the next season without any cash prize.

Players from any of the lower-tiered specific-purpose leagues will be allowed to play in the premiership or championship.

Conversely, the winners of the championship will automatically earn promotion to the premiership.

"The rules will always be the same for everybody no matter who's got how much money.

"We have to accept the premise of promotion/relegation for mutual exclusivity," he argues, adding the current structure is destroying clubs and robbing them of "equal opportunities".

ComputerCare Pacific Premiership costs teams about $2500 in entry fees.

In Hill's proposal, the top six teams would have to "work their butts off from day one to stay in the premiership".

In the championship, more clubs could be added without relegation.

The premiership could also grow to eight or 10 teams as organisers could tweak the relegation process.

"So you'll have free entry to the championship but you'll have to earn the right to play in the premiership by winning so that creates real value.

"It's about encouraging every club, not just thumping your fist on the table to demand you must do this."

The EPL concept, he says, will beckon the best players, administrators, sponsors and fans.

"We don't want to go to Wellington to learn to play football," he says, adding that NZ Football could adopt his plan.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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