George Timotheou has just joined the AIS soccer program. Photo: Colleen Petch
The Australian Institute of Sport has been approved to compete in the Capital Football Premier League this year, but will be ineligible to play in the finals.
Capital Football competition manager Alasdair Grocock confirmed on Friday the AIS had pledged its commitment to playing 16 matches of the 24-game league. The institute completes its National Youth League commitments on February 23, and the squad will take time off before joining the Premier League from round nine.
While its opponents will play for three points, the institute will not play finals even if they win enough games to make the top four.
The move is designed to ensure the youngsters are exposed to match practice year-round, a key directive Football Federation Australia is addressing.
''The AIS need match practice and they need to fulfil some requirements the football federation has set,'' Grocock said. ''They did try to enter the competition last year, but weren't able to commit because they were going on camps and overseas commitments.
''This year they've been able to give us a commitment they'll be here all year, so we've been able to slot them into our competition.
''One, it gives our clubs some stronger competition, and also it fits the AIS requirements of continuing to get match time after the National Youth League.''
The move is in contrast to Basketball Australia, who opted to withdraw the institute from the WNBL in favour of more overseas camps at the start of this season.
Grocock said the other clubs had no qualms about the institute's inclusion after being assured it had pledged to a long-term commitment.
''Their only reservations were that they weren't going to be able to commit, but we've been told they're locked in so they're all keen to play them on a match basis,'' he said.
''They should be pretty strong and will definitely test most of our local clubs, which is what we're looking forward to.''
Grocock said the institute's involvement will be assessed on a season-to-season basis, and will be dependent on the international schedule of Australia's youth representative squads.
''It'll be on a year-to-year basis and whether they can commit to us they can participate, because the last thing we want to do is put them in the competition and they have to pull out,'' he said. ''I don't expect we'll see them playing next year because they'll probably have too many commitments to other competitions which involve travelling overseas and the like.''
ACT Academy of Sport defender George Timotheou could line up for the institute in the league after being handed a one-year contract.
''To be selected for the AIS is the highest honour I have received,'' he said. ''It's been a dream of mine since I was selected in the first Capital Football Academy squad.''