Wednesday, March 14, 2007


The Kiwi Perspective

For today, I'm vacating the soapbox in favour of an e-acquaintance of mine from across the Tasman.

He's angry at the continuing misunderstandings between the FFA and Soccer New Zealand over the requirements for a new franchise to be set up in Wellington. He also has a far better understanding than I of the history of relations between the football administrations in our two countries, and of the attempts to get fully professional football established in NZ.

Since we have heard so much in the Australian press about how the now-defunct Knights, and New Zealand in general, were hampering the growth of Australian football, I thought it might be good to get the other side of the story.

He has given the other side of the story below, and my sincere thanks to him.

...and with that, it seems it's gone.

Two decent seasons and then five years of struggling, and just when it looked like it had come right, it's gone. There were irritations, but no one was particularly upset when the FFA pulled the TV payment out from the owners of the New Zealand Knights pre-Christmas. Sure, the lack of interest in the players' welfare was pretty demoralising, but hey, Perth got abandoned and 18 months later it's all resolved. We got rid of the egos that had hamstrung the club, and with Soccer NZ and Ricki Herbert in charge it went magically. A loss by a patchwork side to Melbourne but plenty of spirit, and then wins and draws to see out the season.

By the time the crowd erupted at the end of the final game against Perth, you could be have been mistaken for thinking it was re-born, and the future was bright. So, why, six weeks later are we within hours of the end of professional football in New Zealand?

Perhaps the signs should have been there when the FFA terminated the players' contracts and removed any starting point? Perhaps the signs should have been there when 4 week timeframes were mentioned, after Perth got over 12 months?

Who's to blame? Anyone's guess. I suggest the recriminations will be long and bitter between all 3 parties, (4 if you include the Knights' former owners, who have been conspicuously quiet for the last 3 months). Go back to the start of those 5 years, and you could lay some of it at the mess SKY TV caused with an infatuation that was as quickly off as it was on, when they purchased the club and it looked like it was a road paved with gold.

Did Soccer NZ pin all their hope on the Auckland proposal coming off, purely to retain the biggest market and remain close to the offices? By all accounts the Auckland bid pulled out because 4 weeks was not enough time to line-up $2m in finances.

But that was okay, Wellington were still in. As of last week Graeme Seatter, the head of NZ Soccer, was telling us that it just needed the FFA's signature and it was all confirmed. By Monday...

Wellington bid head John Dow:

"Our proposal on Friday was that we had $1.1m capital for the first 15 months and $1.8m capital for the next two years, and the New Zealand Soccer board signed off on that and recommended to the FFA we sign the participation agreements."

"I just don't understand what this $2m thing is because it is not necessary. And the other clubs in Australia haven't been asked for that. Also, why is it being talked about at this late point?"

Matt Carroll:

"The failure of the New Zealand Knights has cost the FFA $1m, and we just cannot afford to lose that kind of money again. We need to be absolutely sure that the New Zealand investors can support the club."

That would be $1m of the $1.3m in TV dollars that you never paid the former club then, Matt?

Did the FFA move the goalposts? Is the reason for Matt Carroll's sudden departure at the heart of this? Did Soccer NZ ignore what the FFA were telling them, or mis-interperet what they were being told?

All I know is that it seems over.

the goss seems to be pointing towards a continued NZ presence.

gotta admit i was hoping that NQ would get in (being from there), but am glad that nz gets to keep their spot.

the football they played at the end of last season with a rag tag bunch was really positive and showed that it isn't all about money or 'stars'.

here's hoping the end of last year was the start of something good for the NZ team in the a-league.
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