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With FFA delaying A-League expansion, two key representative bodies have switched their focus to forming a professional second tier

Northern Fury chairman Rabieh Krayem has welcomed Professional Footballers Australia's (PFA) research on a national second division and has claimed the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) will add to the discussion in the next couple of months.

While Krayem and PFA CEO John Didulica differ slightly on the details of what a second-tier competition under the A-League might look like, both are completely convinced that there has never been a better time to make it happen.

In fact, Krayem reckons a professional second-tier competition is feasible within 18 months and confirmed it is something Fury would be interested in.

"I think if all parties worked together, there's no reason why a second tier couldn't happen in the 2018-19 season. I think that's a realistic goal," he told Goal.

"There is a groundswell amongst the football community to pursue this further.

"I think most importantly, everyone agrees that we should have one. It's now about coming up with a model that's financially sustainable and delivers more opportunities for young players in Australia to go to the next level."

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Since the AAFC - a representative body for clubs in the state-based National Premier Leagues (NPL) - was officially established in March, it has been working towards releasing official positions on how a national second division and promotion-relegation could work in Australia.

"I would be very surprised if we don't have a position sorted by the end of May or June," Krayem said.

Hume City v Brisbane Strikers FFA Cup 29072015

Hume City v Brisbane Strikers, FFA Cup

With Football Federation Australia putting A-League expansion on the backburner as it looks to restructure its governance model and attract more capital to Australia's premier competition, Didulica believes work on a second division should begin "sooner rather than later".

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"We need more employment, more secure employment, we need pathways for young players, for retiring players, we need pathways for coaches - so these are the things that are motivating us," he told Goal.

"You wrap that around our need to be internationally competitive in terms of global competition, it makes very sound policy sense to build our professional football footprint."

Earlier this month, PFA revealed what it believes a national second division would cost clubs in a report in the Herald Sun.

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According to Didulica, the figures of $5.5milllion per club - including player wages of approximately $1.5m - plus $10-12m for central running costs of the division would ensure a new competition between the A-League and the NPL would be a "genuine step forward".

While Krayem baulks at the idea a second division club would need an annual turnover of over $5m, Didulica is unapologetic about setting high standards for a competition that would potentially provide future A-League representatives.

Daniel McBreen Bentleigh Greens v Edgeworth FC NPL Finals 17092016

Bentleigh Greens v Edgeworth Eagles, National Premier Leagues Finals

"We need to actually set the bar at the level that we can constructively build Australian football," the PFA boss said.

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"Part of that is a player pathway piece, which is the players need to be in a professional environment and that comes with a price-tag.

"The second part is that clubs - if they are realistic about joining the A-League, if they're realistic about having a high quality product for their fans - that needs to be at a certain level as well… there's no point in having a second tier where clubs are turning over $1.5m or $2m."

Where Didulica and Krayem do agree is that the best way to ensure a professional national second tier is a success is by having as many key stakeholders involved as possible.

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They also agree that although promotion-relegation is the ultimate goal it wouldn't be immediately introduced upon the formation of a second division to the A-League.

With at least 10 clubs and entities having already publically declared their interest in joining an expanded A-League, and numerous other NPL outfits keen to return to a professional environment, there is clearly an appetite for the concept.

 

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