League expansion kicking goals on and off the field

Football Victoria has continued its re-structuring of Victoria’s footballing pyramid by announcing that the Victorian Premier League Men’s 2 (VPLM2) division will be expanded in 2025.  

The VPLM2 division is set for an expansion. Photo: Christopher Kourtis.

Formerly the National Premier League Victoria 3 (NPL VIC 3), Victoria’s third league of semi-professional football is currently in its first season under its new name, VPLM2. A year on, the league will welcome two extra clubs for the 2025 season, expanding the competition to a 14-team league. Although many clubs are looking to take advantage of the change, some are wary of an unhealthy skill gap opening in the VPL and other surrounding leagues.  

The announcement was made last month and highlights the fact that the restructuring of the league will coincide with the introduction of the National Second Tier (NST) in 2025.  

NPL commentator and member of ‘The NPL Victoria Pod’ podcast, Josh Parish, believes that the timing of the expansion is no coincidence. 

“I think it has a lot to do with the National Second Division,” Parish said. “This isn’t confirmed yet, but what I’m expecting will happen is that the clubs that are selected for the National Second Tier will be offered a place in the VPL structures as well, so that will most likely be in VPL2. That will enable them to basically have a placeholder in the league structure if the NST doesn’t work out.” 

The changes will not affect the number of promotion or relegation spots in VPLM2 this season. A Nunawading City FC spokesperson says that, for teams like Nunawading that are already in VPLM2, it’s business as usual.  

“Our strategy probably doesn’t change,” they said. “Your chances of promotion are probably higher in a 12-team league… [but] from our perspective, we go into every season trying to get promoted.”

The two additional teams that will join the VPLM2 will be sourced from the Men’s State League 1 (MSL1) competitions. In past seasons, only the league champions have earned promotion. At the end of the 2024 season, however, both the first- and second-placed teams in the MSL1 competitions (North-West and South-East) will make the jump into VPLM2.   

One of the clubs looking to take full advantage of this opportunity is Malvern City FC. Having finished second in 2023 and missing out on promotion, club president John Hatzis said the club was determined to make the most of the extra promotion slot up for grabs. 

“For a club like us that is looking at promotion, [the changes are] only positive,” Hatzis said. “Even if there was one spot, Malvern would still try to put its best foot forward, obviously, but given that there’s two spots, like I said, it gives us that little bit more incentive to make a push.”

While the announcement is good news for many, some are concerned an expansion runs the risk of creating too much of a skill gap in the MSL1 competitions.  

“There will be clubs that obviously look at this and say, ‘well, we really want to get promoted’, so from an investment point of view, they might pump in some more resources,” the Nunawading City spokesperson said. “Clubs that do have the resources may dominate these leagues … you might have the gap widening.”

On the other hand, Parish is bullish that the Victorian football pyramid is more than capable of sustaining the change. 

“I don’t really see a problem with VPL2 expanding,” he said. “The NPL and VPL structures I think are more than capable of accommodating a fair few more teams before we really start to get growing pains”.  

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