A number of clubs have thrown their support behind a proposed development competition which will aim to strengthen the quality of junior football on the Mid North Coast from 2022.
The high-level competition - labelled the Optus Premier League - will bring together the best six football teams in each age division from under-10 to under-18 boys and girls. An open women's division will also be included.
Competition director Mick Day has met with a number of club representatives from both Football Mid North Coast and North Coast Football zones in recent weeks.
The clubs believe there needs to be more development opportunities for players which would allow them to play a higher level of football, whether that was in the OPL or something different.
It would then allow the players to progress through the ranks into the current Coastal Premier League.
Mr Day said he was not concerned about a claim in a Manning River Times report last month that stated Northern NSW Football would not sanction the OPL.
"We haven't applied for FMNC or NNSWF sanctioning as the league can operate under a professional administration system," he said.
"This allows us the freedom to offer more opportunities and work with all involved in the football community.
"We work very well and directly with Football Australia and play our current teams into many FA events, but we do have avenues to apply for sanctioning if required."
Many football leagues around the country currently operate under professional administration, including one of Sydney's biggest competitions, the Premier Academy League which houses around 2000 players.
The OPL will still operate under the current FIFA rules and laws and fully-covered insurances. Clubs from Sydney and Newcastle have also expressed an interest with the season set to start in March.
Mr Day reiterated the competition had not been created to take away from the existing Premier League competitions in each of the respective zones.
It was about providing opportunities for everyone involved in the game.
"This is about developing football in our area because we have to think as a football community, what do we get as a football community," he said.
"Sure, the players are going to get development opportunities and pathways, but under the competition so will the coaches, the officials, the referees."
We generally want our region to be equal to or better than Newcastle.Mick Day
The aim was for the quality of football to improve over time so high-level players wouldn't have to travel the two-and-a-half hours for a game as is the case in the current National Premier League.
"We generally want our region to be equal to or better than Newcastle," Mr Day said.
"There should be no need that we have to go down there to get a decent game. It's not just for the players, this is for the football community.
"If we don't look after our coaches, our officials, our staff, our referees or our clubs, it's one-dimensional and it doesn't have a future."
This is about developing football in our area because we have to think as a football community, what do we get as a football community.Mick Day
Most importantly, all players will still be able to continue to play for their club side on a Friday night or Saturday which should boost club numbers and lift the level of football in each area.
The competition fixtures will be played on a Sunday.
"The players who want to play a high-level, high-performance premier league will still be able to do that, but they'll still be able to represent their club every weekend too," Mr Day said.
"It's full steam ahead. Divisions are full enough now from under-10s right through that we have to now start ranking some.
"It looks like for 2022 the women's division may have two divisions and that wasn't planned until 2023, but we've just had that many registrations we could start a year early."
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