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2015 Thoughts
The Game Down South
by Jeremy Ruane
Southland Spirit's U-19 team won the Coastal Spirit U-19 Tournament over Labour Weekend, representatives of the same Southland Spirit club which disappeared from the Football South Premier League competition at the end of the 2011 season.

Queenstown Rovers are another club which has dropped out of that competition in more recent times - 2014, meaning the foremost competition for clubs in New Zealand's southernmost federation now boasts just seven teams, all of which are based in Dunedin.

Over the border, the eight-team Mainland Premier League, like its Football South equivalent, sees teams playing each other three times a season, at the end of which the leading two or three clubs have generally built up a sizable points gap over the rest. Save for the odd occasion, upset results are few and far between.

At the end of each campaign, the champions of these leagues play off for the South Island Football Championship, one of very few occasions during the campaign when inter-federation clashes at club level take place each season, the others being ASB Chatham Cup ties, of course.

It goes without saying this situation is far from ideal.

We (i.e. the football community in this country) are too small as a whole to have areas in which players can't challenge themselves against those of other areas at the highest level on a regular basis and, as a result, learn, develop and grow as footballers.
For mine, in order to achieve these things collectively, the game in this country very much needs the Southland Spirits and Queenstown Rovers of this world playing at the highest levels available to them.

In an ideal world, we'd have a ten-team South Island League in operation, made up of, say, Nelson Suburbs, Queenstown Rovers, Southland Spirit, South Canterbury United, Caversham, Dunedin Technical, Mosgiel, Cashmere Technical, Ferrymead Bays and Coastal Spirit.

Financial and logistic concerns, of course, mean the likelihood of this ever happening these days is minimal, but without something of this nature being put in place, how is football in the South Island, as a whole, going to build on successes such as that being celebrated by Southland Spirit's U19 boys right now, and develop and improve mid- and long-term?

Is it in anyone's interests if the Southern Uniteds of this world are merely making up the numbers in the ASB Premiership each season? Surely it's for the game's greater good if they're thereabouts in the play-offs frame on a regular basis, rather than once in a while, if ever.

Re-establishing and developing a South Island League - and a minimum six-team equivalent competition for the women's game - would do a great deal more good than ill for football in Te Wai Pounamu, that's for sure.

Southern League