New Zealand National Soccer League

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The National Soccer League is a name given to competitions in which New Zealand's top soccer clubs play each other, at least two times, on a home and away basis (and occasional in so called championship play-offs). At the completion of the competition, the best-performed team is declared as the New Zealand champion. Specifically, the name is usually used for the nationwide league competitions which ran intermittently from 1970 to 2004.

This definition, however, is open to debate. For example, in 2004, the New Zealand Football Championship was launched. Some do not consider this competition to be a true successor to the National Soccer League as it does not involve traditional club teams but special franchise teams especially created to compete in this competition. It also lacks a relegation and promotion system allowing clubs to "work their way up" and earn a place in this league (thus making the New Zealand championship a closed shop, eight team affair).

1970–1992[edit]

When the National Soccer League was launched in 1970, it became the first national league for any sport in New Zealand. It was also a league in the purest meaning of this word, as it involved clubs playing each other two times, on a home and away basis. Two points were awarded for a win, and one point was awarded for a draw. The club with the greatest number of points was declared the champion. The league was also open and clubs could be relegated from it and promoted to it. This is the most common method of deciding a national champion and prominent examples include the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and the Italian Serie A.

The league in 1970 involved eight teams. Three clubs came from the Northern League, three clubs came from the Central League while the four clubs from The Southern League (Christchurch City, Rangers, Shamrock and Technical) decided to back a new club called Christchurch United in the league. The last place went to the winner of a play-off of the fourth placed Northern League team, North Shore United, and the fourth placed Central League team, Hungaria. Hungaria succeeded by beating their opponents 1-0 in North Shore, and by drawing the return leg 1-1 at home.

The eight teams thus taking part in the inaugural National Soccer League were: Blockhouse Bay, Eastern Suburbs, Mt Wellington (promoted from the Northern League), Stop Out, Gisborne City, Hungaria, Western Suburbs (promoted from the Central League) and Christchurch United (representing the Southern League).

The northern clubs enjoyed an excellent start to the league, all finishing in the top four places. Central clubs, however, took all the bottom four places.

The final standings in 1970 were:

Position Team Matches played Wins Draws Losses Goals Points
1. Blockhouse Bay 14 10 2 2 40-16 22
2. Eastern Suburbs 14 10 2 2 33-17 22
3. Christchurch United 14 9 2 3 40-26 20
4. Mt Wellington 14 7 3 4 35-33 17
5. Stop Out 14 4 2 8 25-38 10
6. Gisborne City 14 3 3 8 22-31 9
7. Hungaria 14 3 3 8 24-36 9
8. Western Suburbs 14 1 1 12 18-40 3

Blockhouse Bay thus became the first winner and the New Zealand Champions.

The bottom club, Western Suburbs didn't suffer relegation, as it was decided to expand the league to 10 teams. Mt Albert-Ponsonby and Caversham won places in the league following promotion play-offs.

Eastern Suburbs won the second edition of the league, while Western Suburbs again finished bottom and this time were relegated, with their place going to New Brighton.

The National Soccer League continued in this fashion, as summarised below:

Year League size Matches per team Winner Relegated Promoted Notes
1970 8 14 Blockhouse Bay - Mt Albert-Ponsonby, Caversham
1971 10 18 Eastern Suburbs Western Suburbs New Brighton Hungaria replaced with composite Hungaria-Miramar Rangers side, known as Wellington City.
1972 10 18 Mt Wellington Auckland City Wellington Diamond United Mt Albert-Ponsonby changed name to Auckland City.
1973 10 18 Christchurch United Caversham North Shore United
1974 10 18 Mt Wellington Wellington Diamond United Caversham
1975 10 18 Christchurch United Wellington City Wellington Diamond United
1976 10 18 Wellington Diamond United Gisborne City Hamilton, Nelson United, Dunedin City
1977 12 22 North Shore United New Brighton, Dunedin City, Caversham Courier Rangers, Waterside, Woolston WMC
1978 12 22 Christchurch United Hamilton, Waterside, Woolston WMC Manurewa, Manawatu United, Dunedin City
1979 12 22 Mt Wellington Manawatu United, Courier Rangers, Eastern Suburbs Hamilton, Gisborne City, Rangers
1980 12 22 Mt Wellington Stop Out, Blockhouse Bay, Nelson United Takapuna AFC, Miramar Rangers, Woolston WMC
1981 12 22 Wellington Diamond United Takapuna AFC, Woolston WMC, Rangers East Coast Bays, Napier City Rovers, Invercargill Thistle
1982 12 22 Mt Wellington Hamilton, East Coast Bays, Invercargill Thistle Papatoetoe, Nelson United, Dunedin Technical
1983 12 22 Manurewa Dunedin Technical Auckland University Number of points for a win changed from 2 to 3
1984 12 22 Gisborne City - - Auckland University finished 12th but retained their place in the league following play-off wins versus promotion candidates.
1985 12 22 Wellington Diamond United Napier City Rovers Manawatu United Wellington Diamond United merged with Wellington City and became Wellington City Diamond United -

then shortened the name to Wellington United

1986 12 22 Mt Wellington Auckland University* Mount Maunganui, Napier City Rovers, Hutt Valley United Despite finishing 9th, Auckland University were relegated because their ground did not meet the required standard. Manurewa finished 12th but were not relegated.
1987 14 26 Christchurch United Dunedin City* Waikato United Dunedin City finished 12th but withdrew due to financial reasons. Miramar Rangers finished 14th.
1988 14 26 Christchurch United Nelson United, Manawatu United Waitakere City, Waterside Karori Nelson United, who finished 13th, relegated because their ground didn’t meet the required standards.
1989 14 26 Napier City Rovers Papatoetoe New Plymouth Old Boys
1990 14 26 Waitakere City Waterside Karori Nelson United
1991 14 26 Christchurch United Gisborne City Papatoetoe
1992 14 26 Waitakere City - -

In 1992 the National League was disbanded due to financial reasons.

1993–1995[edit]

Following the dissolution of the league a new competition (called Superclub) was launched to decide the championship. To keep costs down, the teams participating were divided into three regional groups (Northern, Central, Southern). This was followed by an eight-team national stage (involving only seven matches) and a short championship stage.

The winners in those years were as follows:

Year Regional League sizes (N, C, S) Regional matches per team (N, C, S) National League size Matches per team Winners Runners-up
1993 10, 10, 10 18, 18, 18 8 7 Napier City Rovers Waitakere City
1994 10, 10, 10 18, 18, 18 8 7 North Shore United Napier City Rovers
1995 10, 11, 10 18, 20, 18 8 7 Waitakere City Waikato United

The increase in the number of teams participating for the championship, as well as lack of a true national league system, caused a strong drop in playing standards. It was clear that New Zealand not only needed a national league, but also one which was financially stable.

1996–1998[edit]

In 1996 a National League was launched for the second time in the history of New Zealand soccer. This time however, the league was (mostly) played during the summer months and did not feature relegation and promotion. Teams were invited to participate and the selection criteria involved the financial strength of the club and its location. The league also featured a championship play-off session at the end of the seasons, involving teams finishing high in the table.

To further upset the traditionalists, penalties followed matches which ended in a draw. The winners of the penalty shoot-out were awarded two points, the losers one point while winners in the regular 90 minutes were awarded four points (although this system as dropped in the last year of the National Summer Soccer League). The winners in those years were:

Year League size Matches per team Winners Runners-up
1996 10 18 Waitakere City Miramar Rangers
1997 10 18 Waitakere City Napier City Rovers
1998 11 20 Napier City Rovers Central United

1999[edit]

In 1999, the National Soccer League again took a break. The competition for determining the New Zealand champion was moved back to (mostly) winter months. Two leagues were created, the North Island Soccer League (NISL) and the South Island Soccer League (SISL). The winner of the NISL, Central United, defeated the winner of the SISL, Dunedin Technical, 3-1, in extra time, in the championship final.

2000–2003[edit]

The National Soccer League was launched for the third time in 2000 as the National Club Championship. Like the original in 1970, it was played during (mostly) winter months and a promotion and relegation system was used. In the first season, a bonus point was awarded for scoring four or more goals in one match but that system was dropped in subsequent seasons. The championship play-offs system at the end of the league was the major difference when compared with the competition launched in 1970.

Seven teams, participating in the first edition, came from the NISL (Central United, Waitakere City, Napier City Rovers, Mt Wellington, Miramar Rangers, Metro and Manawatu AFC) and three came from the SISL (Dunedin Technical, Nelson Suburbs, Woolston WMC).

Year League size Matches per team Winner Relegated Promoted Notes
2000 10 18 Napier City Rovers Nelson Suburbs Tauranga City United Nelson Suburbs, who finished 7th, withdrew due to financial reasons. Metro, who finished 10th, retained their place following play-offs. Controversially, Tauranga City United, who finished third in the play-offs, were awarded Nelson's spot in the league, ahead of Caversham, who finished second.
2001 10 18 Central United Metro North Shore United
2002 10 18 Miramar Rangers Waitakere City Caversham
2003 10 18 Miramar Rangers - -

2004[edit]

2004 was the transition year between the National Soccer League and the New Zealand Football championship. Regional competitions were played but no New Zealand champion was determined.

2004–present[edit]

On October 15, 2004 the New Zealand Football Championship was launched (NZFC). It marked a turning point in the history of the game in New Zealand, as for the first time traditional clubs were not eligible to participate in the top league. They were replaced by eight franchise style entities.

Champions[edit]

External links[edit]