The Junior NPL in 2017 will consist of two groups of clubs with the top four teams from each group to play against each other in a combined-finals series at the conclusion of the season.
Teams from the inaugural NPL competition in 2014 have been grouped together, with the nine non-foundation clubs competing against each other before the blended finals series.
The composition of the junior and senior NPL competitions in 2018 and over the next five years is subject to the findings of an NPL Review, which was instigated this year. The review will address various aspects of the NPL including competition design, coaching standards and sustainability.
Since the inaugural NPL season in 2014, there have been two significant adjustments to the competition format. Following the 2015 season, the Football West Board expanded the Junior NPL from 12 to 20 clubs to expose more players in more areas to improved standards of coaching and competition.
Joondalup United’s promotion to the NPL for the 2017 season has resulted in the expansion of the junior competition to 21 clubs and from late-2016 Football West discussed potential formats in various forums.
It was the view of the NPL Standing Committee that the Junior NPL should mirror the senior structure by adopting a 14-and-seven-club league format.
Football West explored alternative models, which included discussions with club officials, before reaching a transitional compromise with the NPL Review findings to shape the future of the game. The format ensures that 50% of teams in the finals series will be from non-foundation clubs.
Football West sought feedback from representatives of the nine-club group in late-December regarding the scheduling of additional fixtures to increase the number of matches for each team. The majority of clubs preferred that extra games be played in a pre-season format and not for competition points.
The format proposed ensures all teams play each other twice for competitive points over the course of the season and that there is no bias that may impact on the final league standings ahead of the blended finals series.
On January 8, 2017, Football West wrote to all 21 club presidents to inform them of the structure for 2017. Draft fixtures were sent to clubs on March 3.
Football West has received strong and divergent feedback regarding the approach to the 2017 season and respects the opinions of passionate members. Fundamentally, junior development depends on the establishment of high-quality club environments, which are enhanced by the relationships between coaches, players, parents and officials. Primarily, the Junior NPL should provide more players greater access to higher technical standards of coaching and training, aside from the competitive challenge of league matches.
Football West is confident players, officials and parents at all 21 Junior NPL clubs will continue to foster positive developmental environments in 2017 and beyond.
The NPL Review process, which will be facilitated by independent consultants, will allow stakeholders to provide input on the future of the NPL through a series of meetings, workshops and an online survey.
A Project Reference Group, consisting of representatives from the NPL, State League, Juniors, Amateurs, Women’s competitions and Football West management, and a Board-Appointed Sub-Committee will act as working groups throughout the process.