Club based national league format on the horizon

New Zealand Football has confirmed the biggest changes to its domestic national leagues in a decade, overhauling the women’s and men’s competitions to make youth development and sustainability a priority. 

The new competitions structure will open the prospect of national league football for all clubs across Aotearoa and is welcome news for Christchurch United.

Clubs around the country will compete in three regional top-tier conferences: a northern, central and southern conference. The best teams in each conference will progress to a national championship played following the community winter season. Christchurch United will need to finish in the top two in the southern conference to qualify.

This structure will ultimately apply to both women’s and men’s leagues, although implementation will be staged. 

The men’s league will immediately move to include three conferences and be fully club-based for the 2021 season, with four teams from the northern conference, three from the central conference and two from the southern conference, plus Wellington Phoenix’s development side progressing to a national championship phase at the conclusion of the regional conferences.

To further encourage youth development, the 2021 men’s competition will introduce regulations stipulating that match day starting line-ups must include a minimum of two players aged under 20, as well as limiting foreign players to four, plus an additional player from an OFC member nation. 
For subsequent seasons the competition will look to increase the minimum number of under 20 players in the match day squad as well as align with the OFC Champions League and current women’s competition foreign player limit of three plus one. 

New Zealand Football also announced that amateur player agreements will be introduced for all players in top-level competitions for the 2021 competition and onwards, setting maximum player reimbursement caps. A full integrity and audit programme will be rolled out to ensure compliance on regulatory matters ahead of the 2021 season. 

The change to the national leagues comes following the conclusion of the Delivery and Sustainability project commissioned by New Zealand Football in May 2020 to address challenges long faced by Football in Aotearoa New Zealand, many of which have been exacerbated by Covid-19. 

Christchurch United FC welcomes these newly-announced changes aimed at improving player development and integrity. We look forward to further announcements and believe the decisions made by New Zealand Football thus far have been positive for the game we all love.