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With the changing of the structure of competitions at a national level there is simply no other way to get around what will be a season which could end in December for a southern club.
University will take on Northern in the opening game tonight in the southern league while the other six teams play on Saturday.
The match between the two sides was originally scheduled for Saturday but was switched to tonight.
University requested the change to a midweek game so it can attend a universities’ football tournament in Palmerston North this weekend.
But after the latest Covid-19 community outbreak in Auckland, the Auckland teams decided against attending which led to the tournament in Palmerston North being called off.
It was too late to change it back to the Saturday so the fixture will start at 7pm tonight.
The season has been forced to start early as New Zealand Football moves towards a club-based national league to replace the NZ Football Premiership.
Qualification for the national league comes from qualifying from the Northern, Central and Southern regions.
The Southern region — which covers the whole of the South Island — will have a South Island league.
Teams, however, must qualify for the South Island league. The Southern Premier League, sponsored by the Otago Daily Times, starts tonight and will have two full rounds.
From there, the top three teams of the Southern Premier League will qualify for the South Island league.
They will be joined by five teams from the Mainland League.
The teams in the South Island league will play one round of games and the top two teams league will qualify for the 10-team national league, which will run from October to December.
Throw in matches in the Chatham Cup and it will be upwards of 30 games throughout the season for a team from the South, if it goes the whole way.
The top two teams in the South Island league from the southern region will automatically qualify for the South Island league in 2022. The third-placed team will have to play the team which wins the Southern Championship, which is the competition for the remaining five teams which do not make the South Island League.
Sides will also have to meet citizenship criteria. Only four players who do not hold New Zealand citizenship will be able to play in the starting teams in the South Island league. That will have a big impact on the Queenstown and Wanaka sides.
Queenstown coach Jamie Whitmarsh said his side was working through the options and had a change of personnel over the past year. It had some local players able to play but some other New Zealand players had moved on.
Veteran striker Carlos Herrman has retired and hung up his boots.
The southern teams will find it tough going in the South Island League and have struggled against the Christchurch clubs which have deep pockets and significant resources.
The women’s Southern league will also start this weekend with seven teams: Dunedin Technical, Queenstown, Green Island, Mosgiel, Roslyn-Wakari and two sides from University.