December 7, 2023

New Zealand to remodel top division. What will happen to the current teams?

New Zealand Football (NZF) has decided to remodel the way the top national division is set up. That could affect the current Premiership clubs.

Auckland City FC
Auckland City FC. (Photo credit: Massimo Colombini/OFC Media)

On February 26th the NZF confirmed competition details for the new National League, set to kick off its inaugural season this summer.

“The men’s competition features 30 teams competing in three regional leagues, the Northern League, the Central League and the Southern League, with the top sides in each qualifying for the National League Championship phase. The regional leagues run across the traditional winter football season, with the National League Championship phase taking place from October to December,” a statement from NZF read.

Four teams from the Northern League, three from Central and two from Southern, as well as the Wellington Phoenix Reserves will qualify for the National League Championship. That means a total of ten teams play in the top division.

But the teams in the current top-flight of New Zealand, the ISPS Handa Men’s Premiership, are almost all franchise-based teams, with the teams being based off already existing teams playing in the winter leagues.

This could bring about a problem when teams who use the same players for the summer and winter leagues would be brought into the same league.

Would it mean the Premiership teams would have to cease to exist? Not necessarily, according to NZF.

“The incumbent standalone entities (franchises) in the current ISPS Handa Men’s Premiership will be able to compete in the new National League through either affiliating as a new member club of a federation under the relevant rules, or amalgamating with an existing member club,” an NZF spokesperson tells Football in Oceania.

“As a transitional measure to allow an appropriate timeframe for such changes, in 2021 an existing ISPS Handa Men’s Premiership entity may enter into a partnership with an existing member club through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) approved by New Zealand Football and the federation. For the sake of clarity, any partnership means that all player are registered with the partner club and that, should the partner club qualify for the National League Championship, the partner club could operate under the national league entity brand.”

So that means teams like world record holders Auckland City, Eastern Suburbs or Team Wellington, could potentially be found in the new National League setup.

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