|By PADDY HIGGS
Football Federation Australia has taken the first steps towards a second professional tier with the launch of the National Premier League on Wednesday.
A key part of the National Competitions Review, the football federations of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania will come together under the NPL model from their 2013 seasons.
The winners of each state competition will meet at the end of each season to determine the NPL champion.
It is hoped the NPL will set the foundations for a second division - or 'B-League' - of Australian football, complete with a relegation and promotion system.
Adhering to a host of changes, the 70 clubs from participating federations will operate under the NPL brand and feature a qualified technical director and adhere to a player points system.
They will also be subject to improved financial and business planning schemes, a revised compensation system for players that depart for A-League clubs.
The federations of Victoria, Northern NSW and Western Australia will follow suit in 2014, with the Northern Territory to operate in a partial capacity.
"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," FFA chief executive officer David Gallop via statement on Wednesday.
"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."
Gallop continued: "The NCR is a key outcome of our strategic plan which has the objective to better connect community football to the professional tier," he said.
"The National Premier League model is a vital conduit from the grassroots to the 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."