Launceston’s involvement in Tasmania’s senior soccer competition looks set to increase with Riverside Olympic applying to join.
Comfortably set-up in a new multi-million-dollar clubhouse at Windsor Park, the club is seeking to be one of two new arrivals when the NPL Tasmania expands from eight to 10 teams next season.
However, the final make-up of the competition is far from confirmed with Northern Rangers yet to commit for another season and some concerns about whether the state can support 10 teams or three in Launceston.
Rangers, Launceston City and ladder-leader Devonport are the current Northern teams along with Southern outfits Hobart Zebras, South Hobart, Olympia, Kingborough and Clarence.
Football Federation Tasmania will invite the best-placed Northern and Southern Championship teams (without existing NPL sides) to step up next season with Riverside and Glenorchy Knights leading the charge.
Riverside president Stuart McCarron said that after extensive consultation, the club’s board had decided to explore opportunities to join the NPL for 2019.
In the week of the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations with playing ranks topping 500, McCarron said: “Riverside Olympic has a successful and enviable history both on and off the field. With an outstanding football facility at Windsor Park, and exemplary governance arrangements, we look forward to continuing a conversation with Football Federation Tasmania.”
“The board will shortly begin an expression of interest process for coaching staff. We will also continue player recruitment, along with expanding marketing and sponsorship opportunities.
“We plan to meet with FFT as soon as possible.”
Unbeaten in their first 11 matches, Propsect-based Launceston City led the ladder until round 13 and have been ever-present in statewide leagues, however, a question mark hangs over Northern Rangers’ continued involvement.
“We’re still in the process of working out whether we are going to have another go and that will probably take until the end of the season,” said Rangers president Rod Fulton.
Football Federation Tasmania confirmed that Riverside Olympic is on course to meet requirements to joining the NPL Tasmania.
Acting chief executive Michael McIntyre said FFT imposes a series of mandatory, desirable and recommended criteria on all clubs and there appeared to be nothing standing in the way of the Windsor Park outfit joining an expanded 10-team competition next season.
“We have not yet gone through the formal process but have had discussions with the club and are confident when the decision has to be made that they will be able to meet the minimum requirements,” he said.
“We work with all clubs to make sure they are ready on and off the field in terms of things like their administration, facilities, coaching, youth development etc.”
As Olympic celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation following the folding of Patons and Baldwins, McCarron said the club conducted extensive consultation before pursuing statewide status.
“It is important to address questions that were posed at club meetings, and they will be taken forward in the new process,” McCarron said.
“Riverside Olympic Football Club is under no illusions regarding the challenges associated with stepping up to the next level. However, it is viewed as a series of exciting opportunities rather than a handbrake preventing application to NPL.
“With 400 juniors and playing ranks totalling 500, Olympic must provide pathways to enjoyment and participation, along with opportunities to experience football at the highest level.”
Rangers president Rod Fulton said the NTCA Ground-based club has been monitoring the Riverside situation and is yet to decide whether it will continue in the competition next season.
He said finance was a pivotal factor in the decision and a club like Rangers did not have the resources to recruit marquee players.
City life member and assistant coach Roger Mies said the club had always strived to play at the highest level and had no intention of changing.
He welcomed Riverside’s potential arrival but added: “My personal view is that the league cannot support 10 teams and when three teams in Launceston has been tried before it has not worked. There is just not the depth of players and financial support for that – it is stretching resources too much.”
McIntyre disagreed, saying: “At the moment we think the competition is ready for expansion. We have put a lot of work into junior development around the state with particular progress in the North and believe there are strong pathways in place and that Launceston has the capacity to support up to three teams.”
McIntyre said from 2019 the tenth-placed NPL team would be relegated and the Northern and Southern Championship winners would play off to replace them with the loser then playing the ninth-placed side for the league’s final spot.
He also said FFT was in the process of recruiting a replacement for departed chief executive Mike Palmer and expected to make an announcement soon.