Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Points of it All

A part of the National Premier Leagues across the country is the new Player Points System (PPS). Players are given a points value according to age (older is more points) and how long they have been at a club (longer is fewer points), with residency and citizenship being a factor. The State Federations will set a points limit which a club's squad must come under. It is designed to encourage youthful squads and reduce the number of visa players from overseas playing in local competitions.

In principle, it is not a terrible idea. To some it may seem like amputating a finger to deal with a paper cut, because there are actually clubs out there that will play kids and don't have half a dozen backpackers in their first eleven. I wonder how the Professional Footballer's Association (PFA) feels about it, though?

One problem with implementing such a scheme on what will be the top tier of football in the state is that it instantly cheapens the product. By branding the league, officially, as a development league the spectator appeal is diminished. Are people interested in watching glorified friendlies or training sessions? That is what the competition may be viewed as should competition rules be amended to force a focus on youth. People follow clubs to watch their team compete, and try and win. Not to watch players try and adhere to a system set by a curriculum.

For the level of professionalism required from the clubs, decent crowd revenue will be vital. It could be a hard sell to get fans to vote with their wallets.

Recent instances of a couple of clubs fielding up to seven or eight imports at a time has brought this issue to a head. Hopefully the changes won't eliminate imports completely. Personally I have always enjoyed having one or two around the club at a time. The club quickly becomes their family in this country, as they often rely on team-mates for accommodation and transportation as well as going out together socially. It can assist in team bonding, so it saddens me to see that a couple of clubs going to extremes has given the entire practice a bad name.

It is good to see the PPS foster player loyalty. The FFV has often been the club's worst enemy in this regard. The current elite pathway has seen players float from a junior club, to the National Training Centre (NTC), back to a junior/senior club, then to Melbourne Victory Youth and then maybe back to a senior club within the space of a year and a half. The introduction of the Victorian Summer League gave coaches the chance to poach players for their winter clubs, and the disbanding of the Super Leagues saw player movement increase as many sought to get out of the perceived weaker zonal league their club had been placed in.

Hopefully the FFV will be able to properly monitor the PPS. Having struggled in keeping up with yellow card count suspensions in the past, leading to the farce of expanding the VPL to avoid litigation from a club that had been relegated which was disputing an administrative error, they will need to check everything over carefully from now on.

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