The decision to replace the Premier League with new northern and southern conferences has not been greeted warmly by leading Tamworth-based figures in the sport.
Northern Inland Football revealed on Thursday that the Premier League was no more. The reasons it gave for that surprise move included giving clubs like Inverell and Gunnedah the chance to play soccer at the highest level in the region.
Travel was also an issue for some clubs, according to NIF general manager Julia Farina.
But Greg Bartlett - who coached Tamworth FC to back-to-back titles before standing down at the end of last season - said the travel argument "doesn't wash with me".
The prominent builder described the restructuring as a "backward step". He doubts that the plan to have eight team per conference will be successful
"It's an hour up the road to Armidale," he said. "They should go play those sports where they do travel [long distances].
I can't see it being better for the sport.Greg Bartlett
"I think it [the restructuring] is gonna weaken the comp. I'm glad I'm not involved next year ... I can't see it being better for the sport."
North Companions coach Jackson Zifodya is "really disappointed" at the restructuring. "Because the way we had it, to me, was a very good level of competition," he said.
"But there were problems with one or two things that I feel should have been sorted out a long, long time ago, but festered. And we now have big problems which has led to this."
Zifodya, the chief physicist at the North West Cancer Centre, said those "inherent" problems included "some things that other clubs got away with that other clubs felt should have been dealt with in a particular way". "That has led to some teams thinking that they're not protected when they send their players out on the pitch."
The Northies mentor said NIF's hand was forced by clubs threatening to leave the Premier League. He based that belief on discussions he has had with rival coaches, "particularly those from Armidale".
He does not know if that is the sole reason for the restructuring. However, he said some clubs had "categorically said they will not participate unless rules or aspects of the competition are changed".
He stressed that these were his personal opinions.
New OVA president Mitchell O'Keefe has doubts the overhaul will work because NIF has tried the conference model before. He played in it.
That happened in 2014 and 2015, with the conferences scrapped in favour of the Premier League.
"It [the overhaul] has the potential to build the local teams," he said. "But it has the potential to weaken the Premier League teams."
"I reckon there will be an issue with depth," he added.
From next season, the northern conference will consist of the four Armidale clubs who contested the old Premier League plus four more clubs, who will be drawn from Armidale's local competition via nominations.
The southern conference will consist of the three Tamworth clubs from the old Premier League plus five more clubs, who will be drawn from the Tamworth competition via nominations.
Both conferences will play a 14-round home-and-away series, with a four-round cross-conference finals series.