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Promotion, relegation returns to NNSWF premier competitions

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Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) chief executive officer Peter Haynes labelled it a “momentous occasion” for the round ball game in the region.

The organisation will reintroduce promotion and relegation to its senior men’s premier competitions from 2024.

The move is expected to complement its connection with the Zone Football League for the first time, too, with the structure designed to enhance player development, increase overall club development, improve fan engagement and provide more competitive matches.

“I’m proud of the way my NNSWF staff have worked collaboratively with the working group and the member zones,” Haynes said.

“They’ve achieved something that is undeniably for the betterment of football in the area.

“I have no doubt players, clubs and fans will be excited by this news and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.”

NNSWF will continue to fully-administer the NPL Men’s NNSW and Northern League formats while the Interdistrict member zones, Newcastle Football, Macquarie Football and Hunter Valley Football, remain responsible for the Zone Football League.

But, under the new configuration, there’ll be a total-functioning pyramid in northern NSW for the first time, allowing aspirational clubs to move up to higher levels based on sporting performance.

NNSWF general manager football operations Liam Bentley said the return of promotion and relegation was a huge positive for the code.

“This is something we have been working on for a while,” he explained.

“The decoupling of youth football from our senior football, which came into effect this season, was a major step into bringing back promotion and relegation.

“This really is a massive step for football in northern NSW.

“I’d like to thank the NNSWF board of directors, in particular deputy chair Mark Trenter, as well as the rest of the working group.

“They worked collaboratively to achieve this outcome for the game.”

Trenter, himself, said the structure was essential in terms of player and club development.

“The fact that the NNSWF board has now sanctioned promotion and relegation to come into effect for 2024 is massive and also allows for opportunities for pathways from the regions across our northern NSW footprint,” he added.

“The panel of experts that I put together were absolutely united in getting this up and running for 2024.

“Special mention to Liam Bentley who is such an asset to NNSWF and has a genuine passion for our game.

“And, also to Daniel McBreen who I approached to assist us as an expert.

“He gave us an independent voice.

“He’s an icon of Newcastle football and former professional player with extensive local knowledge.

“It was a pleasure to be appointed as chair for this project and I’m delighted that we have achieved the outcome we set out to.”

Newcastle Football CEO Russell Henry said he was thrilled, especially the connection of the football pyramid.

“This is such an exciting moment… and I’m really happy we were able to make this happen for our Zone Football League clubs,” he declared.

“We’ve worked collaboratively with NNSWF and I believe ultimately this initiative will be for the betterment of our football community.

“The three independent Hunter-based member zones will remain as administrators of the Zone Football League.

“We’ll be fully-responsible for our competitions as we are now, but it gives our aspirational clubs a chance to climb the ladder and ultimately become an NPL Men’s NNSW club one day.”

How it will work

  • The 12 clubs competing in the 2023 NPL Men’s NNSW will remain in 2024, while Northern League One stays a nine-team competition at this stage.
  • The Zone Premier League, Zone League One and Zone League Two will continue 12, 10 and 10-side formats respectively, but will be renamed Zone League One, Zone League Two and Zone League Three.
  • At the end of the 2024 season, the team that comes 12th in NPL Men’s NNSW will be relegated to Northern League One, while the side that finishes first in the latter gains promotion into the top level.

Promotion play-off

  • The team that finishes 11th in NPL Men’s NNSW will join the teams that finish second, third and fourth in Northern League One in a promotion/relegation play-off series to determine the 12th team in NPL Men’s NNSW in 2025.
  • This will involve the 11th side from NPL Men’s playing the fourth outfit from Northern League One, and the second and third teams from Northern League One facing each other in two-legged home and away matches.
  • The two winners will then meet in one fixture to decide who’ll contest the NPL Men’s NNSW competition.

Connecting the pyramid

  • The team that finishes ninth in Northern League One will not be relegated to Zone League One at the end of 2024 due to the current bye.
  • However, relegation from Northern League One will start from 2025.
  • But, the side that finishes first in Zone League One in 2024 will be promoted to Northern League One to make a 10-team league next year.
  • Five-team finals series will remain in Zone Football League, with a straight one club up/one club down promotion-relegation model to come into effect between Northern League One, Zone League One, Zone League Two and Zone League Three.

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