Former Socceroo Ned Zelic sees a proposed national second division as a crucial pathway for Canberra talent to make it to the elite level – similar to the one that kick started his glittering career.
But only if it’s done right.
Zelic started with Sydney Croatia in the now defunct National Soccer League, but returned to his native Canberra to play for Canberra FC, who had a team in the NSW state league.
It was a case of one step back to take two steps forward for the now 45-year-old who said that ability to remain in Canberra and still play at a higher level where he could be seen by scouts got his career going.
That career included a UEFA Cup final and the German Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund.
Fairfax Media revealed National Premier League clubs, led by those in Melbourne, were looking to set up the national second division on their own and were meeting in Melbourne on Monday.
Canberra FC have indicated their interest in being part of the venture, provided it was financially viable for them.
Zelic urged all involved not to rush and to make sure they set it up so that it was sustainable because it was such an important step for Australian soccer.
“You have to do something down the track to give all these clubs underneath the A-League the opportunity to progress,” he said.
“There has to be a framework there where success is pretty much guaranteed.
“I’m all for it. If you look around the world, the different lower tiers and what’s happening in different countries it just boosts the appeal of football in every single country.
“I’m on the side of 1000 per cent sure that it’s going to work and not a case of let’s do it and if it breaks down at least we tried. That doesn’t help anyone.”
Zelic said Football Federation Australia needed to be involved in the set-up of the second division, which would be created from NPL clubs in capital cities around the country, but he was unsure what the governing body’s plans were.
It would sit below the A-League and ideally have promotion and relegation – both up to the A-League and down to the various NPLs.
But Zelic felt the introduction of relegation into the A-League could terminate some of the clubs.
“The only stumbling block I see is going up to A-League and clubs going down, because these clubs now in the A-League they’ve pretty much been built on no relegation,” he said.
“That’s in their blood stream and there’s a lot of talk if one of those clubs got relegated then they’d just fold, which I see as realistic.
“The last thing I want to see is there be a second division and if there’s no promotion then there’s nothing to gain.”
Even if there wasn’t promotion and relegation between the A-League and the proposed second division, Zelic felt it would still be an important stepping stone for Canberra kids.
The FFA has kiboshed any chance of Canberra having an A-League any time soon and Zelic said the talk of the AIS soccer program shutting down would be another blow to talent in the nation’s capital.
“Look at the kids here in Canberra, what do they do? They have to go interstate to play state league, for example NSW or Victoria, if they want to get closer to A-League,” Zelic said.
“It’d be a different pathway when you’re talking about a second division.”
Meanwhile, former Capital Football chief executive Heather Reid has joined the FFA women’s committee, which is a sub-committee of the FFA board.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.