Soccer league wants 16th team

THE NORTHERN Inland Premier League has already extended its season in 2013 and now it is seeking an extra club to expand the competition to 16 teams.

Northern Inland Football chairman Steve Griffiths spoke about the plans for next season on Friday and suggested that a 16th club to play in the northern conference would be ideal.

It would even up the numbers to eight in each conference and do away with the bye in the north.

There was some concern a couple of weeks ago about the Narrabri Cougars’ place in the league when they  suggested they would not be nominating.

But since making that information public, the club has seen a rise in interest and is now likely to compete again.

The competition was expended to 15 teams this year by merging the Namoi League clubs into the premier league and by inviting Guyra and Glen Innes to compete.

Griffiths said that many clubs were reluctant to play the extra cross-conference games this year because of the travel involved, and also because the new clubs were untested against the long-standing premier league clubs.

But after a full season in which many of the new clubs were quite competitive, the decision has been made to extend the season to 22 games and the clubs are supportive of the move.

Each team will play a home and away season within its conference, but will also play a full round of matches against each team in the other conference.

This year only three “cross-conference” rounds were held, meaning the 2013 season will be five rounds longer.

To help with travel distances, some of those cross-conference games will be played at central venues and, to account for the longer season, a number of local derby games may be played midweek where possible.

Griffiths said NIF was also encouraging more local teams to play in the State Cup.

Only two local clubs played in the statewide knockout competition this year  but the top eight teams will have their nomination fees paid for by NIF in 2013 and the board hopes that will lure all eight teams to compete.

Premier league champion Tamworth FC has already announced that it will be nominating for the knockout.