NPL Tasmania newcomer Riverside Olympic has joined the chorus of concern over travel differentials in next year’s competition.
A few days after Devonport Strikers president Rod Andrews aired fears for his club’s long-term future, Olympic counterpart Stuart McCarron also said the soon-to-be-announced roster unfairly favours Southern clubs.
”We will do in excess of 3000 kilometres and there are some Hobart teams doing 1300,” McCarron said. “There’s nowhere near fairness.
“It’s a statewide competition so we accept that we will do more travelling, but it’s substantially more.
“It should be evened up more. They should play more home games in Launceston.”
With nine teams in the competition – following Northern Rangers’ decision to withdraw – teams will play one another three times meaning 24 fixtures each.
Football Federation Tasmania competitions manager Glen McNeill expects to announce the roster this week and said it had been difficult trying to please all parties.
“We’ve got a lot to work through and we’re trying to help each club get what they want,” he said.
“For Northern clubs the kilometres travelled across all games has increased with Northern Rangers not in the competition any more which is unfortunate.
“We need to keep that in mind but also not look to give any clubs any advantage over others. How we find the right mix is challenging and there are other requirements from clubs that are not just based around travel.
“Northern clubs prefer Saturday games to combine with their Northern Championship teams and down South some clubs like Friday and Sunday fixtures.”
McNeill was excited by newly-promoted Championship winners Riverside and Glenorchy joining reigning premier Devonport and last season’s early pacesetter Launceston City and Southern representatives South Hobart, Olympia, Zebras, Kingborough and Clarence.
“I think both new clubs could be competitive and tighten up what was already a tight competition.”
McCarron believed 24 games for each club was about the right number in a season scheduled to start on March 1 and finish in September.
But he said travel remained a divisive issue.
“We’ve got 12 Saturday home games, seven away games in Hobart on Saturdays and two on Sundays, are away to Devonport twice and play Launceston City at home twice and away on a Wednesday night,” he said of the draft roster.
“Travel is not necessarily a financial issue because league sponsorship means the buses are paid for, but the impact on players, supporters and coaches is exceptional. It’s a ridiculous amount of travelling.
“We would have expected somewhere between seven and 10 games in Hobart. The two Sundays are probably my biggest concern.”
Last week, Andrews told Fairfax Media that expecting the Strikers to increase their travel commitment from around 5200km to 6000km was “blatantly unreasonable”.
“We’re not a professional competition and this is not metropolitan Sydney or Melbourne, so you are relying on people’s enthusiasm to represent your club and our success does offset any lack of motivation to travel to Hobart twice a month, but a couple of lean years or a tough season and that can evaporate quite quickly,” he said.
“We are not making any threats of pulling out, and we want to work with FFT to get this right once and for all, but this will be out of our hands if we can’t field a team in 12 months’ time.
“We want to continue in this competition, as we think it is important for soccer and our community, and we need to have a North-West Coast teams in a statewide competition.
“If you can accept that 12 home games is reasonable, then you also have to accept that us travelling 6000km, with another club travelling 1400km and another really successful club down there travelling 1800km is also fair and reasonable, and I can’t see how that can be the case.”
Andrews said he was surprised that FFT hadn’t learnt the lessons from the other football code, with travel a major reason why the North-West region doesn’t have any teams in the TSL or TSLW.
McNeill said a 10-team league remained the board’s preference, ideally with another from the North.
He said FFT was hoping to lock in an Anzac Day double-header involving Olympia, Glenorchy, South Hobart and Zebras at North Hobart Oval as part of this week’s roster announcement.
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