It is opportune to consider the future of football in New Zealand. We have never been able to sustain a FIFA ranking within the top 50 countries in this, the most competitive game on earth. Given our wealth, our sporting ability and the number who play the game here, this is unacceptable. It is debatable whether the game at national level has made any progress at all over recent years. It is important it does, not least for those who play, coach and watch the game but also because from a geopolitical perspective, football can open more doors than any other sport for New Zealand’s international trade and foreign relations. Being the world’s premier sport, football is more than a game, we need to take it seriously.
In my view key to progress of elite football in New Zealand is to integrate the sport from amateur elite to the sole professional team and on to the national team. This in essence is what Australia’s FFA has achieved and the game in that country has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. By comparison New Zealand has languished. To achieve this requires a lift in expertise both in the governance of the code and coaching expertise right down to the most junior elite levels.
To this end I’m prepared to invest $5m in NZ Football so long as the government invests twice that amount, with the focus being on achieving the integration and thereby ensuring our young players develop within an environment that reflects the type of football our most senior teams practice and we produce coaches steeped in that methodology. We need to jettison the almost inbred tendency from grassroots level to play kick-and-chase football that comes about because of our inability to develop players that are good enough at tap-and-go, possession-based football. This is the cultural change we are undertaking at The Phoenix and was behind the Mexican sarcasm about converted rugby players.
A requirement of my proposal is that the current leadership of NZ Football resign and a new board (still a blend of people from within the game and others who know how to build businesses and execute strategy) be appointed with this mandate clearly defined.