|By VINCE RUGARI
Football Federation Australia says it has no plans to introduce promotion and relegation to the A-League, despite Football Queensland's declaration that the system was on its way in 2022.
On Wednesday, at the launch of the Australian Premier League's Queensland conference, FQ chief Geoff Foster shocked reporters by claiming that pressure from the Asian Football Confederation had prompted FFA into setting plans for a national second-tier competition within 10 years.
The desire to increase the A-League's presence in the AFC Champions League was the driver behind the decision, he said.
But an FFA spokesperson was quick to pour cold water on FQ's claims.
"It remains an aspiration that one day promotion and relegation may become a possibility for the Hyundai A-League," the spokesperson said.
"However, FFA has made no decision and given no timeline to introduce promotion and relegation.
"The introduction of the APL structure is an important enhancement in the evolution of the talented player pathway for football in Australia and we congratulate Football Queensland on the announcement of the teams they will be putting forward for the competition."
Foster said earlier that FFA boss Frank Lowy had approached the chief executive officers and chairmen of its member federations in September.
"He said to us that the AFC were running out of patience and that we needed to prepare and that we needed to make this happen, perhaps sooner than we are ready," Foster told reporters.
"I would be surprised if the AFC were patient enough to give us [beyond] 2022, but that's what we're representing as a plan."
All bar three of the FFA's member federations will introduce APL 'conferences' in 2013 - Football West, Football Federation Victoria and Northern NSW Football are to follow the year after.
However, when pressed on the myriad issues that a national second division would present, Foster said it was a "realistic" prospect that could be worked with the appropriate governance changes.
"I don't want you to think that this is not going to happen without its challenges - it's a cultural change from football as we've played it traditionally," he said.
"We believe with some rationalisation and cooperation in governance, we will be able to have a more seamless promotion-relegation opportunity."
FQ chief operating officer Ben Mannion said the APL, which is first and foremost designed as a pathway for elite players and coaches, was the "best thing that's come out of the national federation for a long time".
"The game is moving forward. This shouldn't be seen as anything but a massive step forward for football," Mannion said.
"The new TV rights deal will help the A-League clubs, no doubt about that, and depending on how long that is, [FFA will] look at the next step of the World Cup and the Asian Cup here in 2015 as two tools to actually drive participation and drive kids to those clubs.
"Over time, our game will change. Traditionally we've been a funding up model.
"Hopefully one day in the not too distant future, the funding will start coming up from the top from the likes of TV rights deals and different commercial arrangements that the FFA will work on."
The 12 clubs who will make up the APL Queensland division are Brisbane City, Brisbane Strikers, Central Queensland, Far North Queensland Bulls, Moreton Bay United, Northern Fury, Olympic FC, Palm Beach Sharks, the Queensland Academy of Sport, Redlands United, Sunshine Coast Fire and Western Pride.