By: EFL Chief Executive Officer Phil Murton
Last week at its monthly meeting, the EFL Board endorsed a change to the structure of the senior football competition from season 2019.
For season 2019, our 44 clubs will be put into five divisions, up from the current four. The five competitions will be named: Premier, Division 1, Division 2, Division 3 and Division 4, and consist of 10, 10, eight, eight and eight teams respectively.
EFL Chairman Graham Halbish thanked clubs for their responses.
“Feedback was received from nearly all clubs and the response from clubs showed a high level of thought and detail went into their feedback on the proposed restructure,” Halbish said.
“We thank clubs for the time and effort put into responses, which was overwhelmingly in favour of a shift to a five-division structure which will be implemented in season 2019, the timing of which was also the preference of most clubs.”
The decision follows a lengthy process of engagement with clubs. It’s a conversation we’ve been having for the last 18-24 months, with editorials on these pages and in our social media feeds along with broader coverage by Toby Prime in the Leader Newspapers.
At the same time, as board members and staff have travelled around to clubs on game-day and at functions, we’ve discussed it with clubs one-on-one to get their feel for change.
A more formal presentation was delivered at a presidents’ dinner in February, followed by detailed information sent to clubs asking for feedback.
Why the change?
More levels/divisions of football have proven beneficial wherever possible.
We’ve seen this in the EFL and competitions such as the VAFA, and more recently in the Northern, Western and Essendon leagues where restructure has enabled them to go to three divisions.
It gives more teams greater opportunity to find their right position and chance of success and usually results in lower average winning margins.
Also, 12-team competitions have never been ideal with the gap between the top and bottom sometimes significant.
Clubs have never liked playing some teams only once and clearly wanted to play everyone home and away, with the prospect of playing some teams three times generally considered better than playing some teams only once.
Sport, and local football in particular, is built on hope.
Hope is essential in enabling a club to survive by recruiting and retaining players, getting and keeping quality coaches, engaging the club in your local community, and most importantly, helping get volunteers on board to help run the club.
We’ve all seen the impact having some success and playing finals, grand finals and winning premierships has on clubs.
It’s shown repeatedly that players and coaches who are part of success have a greater connection with their club in the future, and are more likely to be involved and engaged.
If we can create more of this across the competition without devaluing competitions in any way, then that can only be a good thing in helping clubs continue to not only survive, but prosper.
Since the League’s inception 55 years ago in 1962, clubs have on average won 4.1 premierships in that time.
If you take out the exceptions in Vermont (19) and East Burwood (12), this reduces to 3.6, or a premiership every 15.3 years.
The possible restructure increases the number of teams winning a premiership by 25% each year, or in the next 55 years, 55 more premierships.
That’s more reunions, more people engaged with their old club, everything that comes with winning premierships or even playing in grand finals to a lesser degree. There are both short and long-term benefits for clubs
The other question posed to clubs was with eight-team competitions, is 18 rounds the perfect fit or with modern life and challenges with volunteers and other factors such as player commitment, would 16 rounds be more appropriate?
So far, the feedback is in favour of a shorter season but this is something we’ll continue to talk to clubs about as we model how season 2019 will look.
It’s an exciting time for the League. More details on the restructure, such as the exact implementation process and season length in eight-team competitions will be communicated to clubs in the coming months.
Best of luck to all teams this weekend and see you at the footy.