UPDATED: A window has opened for Football South Coast where the door to the A-League had previously been slammed shut.
South Coast could yet have the opportunity to play in the A-League under a Football Federation Australia blueprint to be announced by chief executive David Gallop Wednesday morning.
The Mercury has learned a new National Premier League competition and FFA Cup competition will be established to develop a second tier to the elite A-League.
The new league will be boosted by the development of a number of pathway initiatives and financial incentives to help bridge the gap between the top two tiers in Australia, as part of a long-term plan to be consistently competitive in the Asian confederation.
The FFA Cup is likely to be introduced within two years, initially including the champion league club from each state as well as A-League clubs.
The winner of the knockout competition would have the opportunity to play in the Asian Champions League.
Then the NPL will be established with NSW Premier League clubs being required to pass a set of strict financial and infrastructure criteria to qualify, before the eventual development of a promotion and relegation system with the A-League.
Former A-League player and Wolves captain Jacob Timpano said with careful management, South Coast could return to being a national powerhouse once again.
‘‘It is a big gap [between A-League and NSW Premier League] in all aspects professionally,’’ he said.
‘‘But it would be great for it to be bridged and there be a lot more common ground.
‘‘There’s a history of success for Wollongong players, in national teams, playing in overseas leagues and as a club at the elite level in Australia.
‘‘If there were the structures in place, there’s no doubt we could build a squad of predominantly homegrown talent.
‘‘So any plans like this would be a massive thing for South Coast football.’’
The Mercury understands the original FFA plan involved branding the new league competition as the ‘‘Australian Premier League’’, however, the move hit a road block because the naming rights are held by lawn bowls.
The FFA has been under pressure from the Asian Football Confederation for some time about developing a promotion and relegation system.
While the NPL criteria may be announced today, South Coast’s chances are enhanced by the availability of WIN Stadium as a venue.
State league clubs would receive significant financial windfalls if one of their players is recruited by an existing A-League club, while a points cap system would be introduced into the NPL to held bridge the gap between elite and semi-professional.
It will be enforced that each state league club has full-time technical directors and A and B-licence coaches, as well as highly qualified coaches for their junior programs.
In 2000 and 2001, the then Wollongong Wolves won the National Soccer League titles and they also won the 2008 NSW Premier League crown, before falling on difficult financial times.
The rebuilding process has led South Coast to an elimination final last year, after being second on the NSWPL standings for much of the season.
When told of the new competition, Football South Coast general manager Bill Kostandas said a focus would need to remain on enhancing the pathways for talented juniors in any future moves to enter the A-League or W-League competitions.
‘‘If this comes to fruition it would have many benefits,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ll wait and see what is announced [today], but this could help produce the region’s next Socceroo and prospects of them staying in the region for longer.
‘‘Structually, I don’t believe there would need to be a lot of change in what Football South Coast already has in place.
‘‘There are technical directors and skilled coaches already involved at all levels, both within Football South Coast and the Wolves.
‘‘A lot of people have worked hard to develop the pathways towards the opportunities the Wolves provide in the NSW Premier League, so any plans to enhance that would be welcomed.’’