Football Federation Tasmania keen to tackle league within league

Mike Palmer
Mike Palmer

Football Federation Tasmania boss Mike Palmer admits he is concerned by an imbalance within the state’s major division which saw the top four sides beat the bottom four by a combined score of 21-1 last weekend.

Olympia (4-0), South Hobart (5-0), Devonport (7-1) and Hobart Zebras (5-0) had big wins over Clarence, Kingborough, Northern Rangers and Launceston City respectively to widen a 10-point gap in the middle of the state’s National Premier League.

After nine rounds, the bottom four sides have just a win each, all against each other, plus double-figure negative goal differences.

The situation is similar to the void between the big seven and the rest in the English Premier League which sees eighth-placed Southampton closer to 18th than seventh.

Palmer admitted it was not ideal but saw positives in the scenario.

“It’s hard to know what to do about it but we’d like to see it more even,” he said.

“Clearly there is a massive gap between the top four and bottom four but I’m a glass half-full sort of person.

“At the top we have four teams with every opportunity of winning so it is the most competitive league we’ve had in a long time. We’d rather this with no-one knowing who is going to win at the halfway stage than the last three years when it’s been fairly obvious that Devonport, Olympia and South Hobart were going to.

“And at least the bottom four are competitive with each other and there is no tail-off easy-beat side like we have had in the past.”

Palmer cited a combination of reasons for the division including better resources, player development and access to quality imports.

The league chief executive hopes the situation may be eased by the upcoming introduction of promotion and relegation.

Next season the league will expand by two clubs through the Southern Championship winner and the highest-placed Northern Championship club that does not already have an NPL side (either Somerset, Launceston United, Ulverstone, Burnie or Riverside).

The following season will see the Northern and Southern Championship winners play each other with the winner promoted while the loser plays the second-bottom NPL side. The winner of that match will qualify for the NPL while the loser joins the bottom-placed team in the Championship competition.

“I think promotion and relegation is an important part of the game and it’s got everybody excited,” Palmer said. He added he was impressed with the quantity of junior players being developed at Northern Rangers and the infrastructure being put in place by Launceston United and Riverside Olympic with a view to hosting higher-division soccer.