EXCLUSIVE: Football Federation Tasmania will invite eight teams to launch their new state-wide Victory League next year, sparking renewed optimism about the sport’s future across the Apple Isle.
Clubs from the state’s three major football regions of Hobart, Launceston and Devonport will make-up the new competition to reunite the Tasmanian top tier which divided into north and south in 2000.
Current Southern Premier League clubs Glenorchy Knights, Olympia Warriors, Hobart Zebras, South Hobart FC and Kingborough Lions will join Northern Premier League sides Devonport City Strikers, Northern Rangers and Launceston City in the new league.
The announcement comes after FFT unveiled Melbourne Victory as the competition’s naming rights sponsor last week, with more sponsors being chased, and a league-wide kit deal set to be revealed within weeks.
Up to 17 clubs lodged expressions of interest to join the Victory League, with applicants measured against criteria including standard of facilities, club governance, coaching and player pathways, and financial stability including their appeal to sponsors and ability to meet the $10,000 licence fee.
The successful clubs are guaranteed a Victory League spot for its first three years before an FFT review of the competition including possible expansion and a relegation-promotion system.
The Northern and Southern Premier Leagues will continue as the second tier of the Tasmanian football pyramid and retain the support of their naming rights sponsor, Forestry Tasmania.
“The committee and players are very excited at the prospect of being part of the Victory League,” said President of Glenorchy Knights Paul Woodham.
“The due diligence that FFT have undertaken and the very rigorous selection process, along with the sponsorship and financial backing, should ensure long term viability.”
Hobart Zebras President Nick Di Giovanni also welcomed the new look league.
“With state wide coverage, I feel sponsors will be much happier to put their money up compared with the low profile southern league,” he said
“I believe a pathway will be created and Melbourne Victory will reap the benefits. Even if it is only one player that makes it, imagine the publicity once this occurs.”
The extensive consultations between clubs and the state federation was also praised by Jason Jones, President of Launceston City.
“The process has been very open and we have been involved with every meeting,” Jones said, “I feel what’s on offer as part of the licence will ensure the clubs and competition will be viable.
“The biggest issue in the past was the travel and this has been sorted as part of the licence. This will be a huge benefit to the clubs.”
Club officialss also dismissed comparisons with previous state-wide Tasmanian leagues concepts.
“We go in with little or no previous state league experience or baggage," said Brendan Lichtendonk, President of the league’s youngest club, Northern Rangers.
"Everything is new for us and we will approach it in this way rather than focusing on the previous failed models.
“The league will raise the profile of the club without doubt. We will be more appealing to would-be sponsors, giving them greater exposure, and hopefully the local media will give the league the support it deserves.”
Kingborough Lions President Brian Dale added: “FFT are fully aware of the problems that have dogged previous versions of the state league as are all the clubs.
'We are confident that the shortcomings of the past are being addressed and will continue to be addressed.”
Several clubs that were unsuccessful or withdrew their bids indicated they will reapply for a place in the Victory League once the participating club’s three year licences expire, preferably as part of an expansion.
Northern Premier League club Somerset SC, who did not bid to join the Victory League, suggested they will consider joining forces with nearby clubs as part of a future submission.
Somerset SC President Simon Good said, “I think the best chance of a club west of Devonport succeeding would be to put in a composite, stand-alone side comprised of mainly Ulverstone, Burnie and Somerset players.”
A-League expansion consortium, Tasmania United, also lent support to the competition via a statement.
Daniel Hanna, chairman of the bid taskforce, added: “It is important for Tasmania to have a strong competition to provide a pathway for elite players and better capitalise on the very strong junior participation in Tasmania.”
“We view the Victory League as helping to build a stronger platform for the world game in Tasmania from which we can secure a presence in the Hyundai A-League."
A kick-off date is yet to be announced for the Victory League’s opening fixture.
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