Wellington Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan wants a level of involvement in New Zealand Football, offering a blueprint to develop New Zealand into a world top 50 nation.
For the first time in years NZF is set for fundamental governance change – awaiting a new chairman, new chief executive and new national men’s coach, with the board’s long-standing boss, Frank van Hattum, becoming the latest to exit. Morgan, a successful businessman and key member of the Welnix group which took over the Phoenix in 2011, says the relationship between New Zealand’s only professional club and the taxpayer-funded national body is cold – lacking basic communication and strategic alignment.
Urging whoever takes the reins of the organisation to wake it from years of “amateur” governance, Morgan is frustrated by repeated attempts to engage NZF over developing the game.
Three months after offering $5million as part of a plan to help trigger change, Morgan remains committed to helping the national body – even prepared to consider investment in a second Kiwi A-League team.
But first, he says, NZF must change.
“If New Zealand Football remain dead from the neck up, then there’s no hope,” Morgan told the Sunday Star-Times.
“There’s obviously no one in there with balls to say ‘this is common sense, this is what we should be doing’. Either Frank ran it as his fiefdom and put all his own people in, which is one theory, or basically they’re all to blame. I don’t know the answer, but it’s one of them.
“I feel NZF, at elite level, has achieved nothing like what it is capable of. I’ve wondered, why is that?
“Since I’ve been involved with the Phoenix the ability to get any engagement from NZF, to even sit down to discuss and execute stuff, has been absolutely zero.
“You can’t criticise the women’s side of the game, that’s been absolutely fantastic, but if we’re talking about the men’s side it’s absolutely abysmal and if anything, I think it’s gone backwards over the last few years.
“I can’t stand amateur committees and I would describe NZF as amateur in the extreme. You’ve just got to look at the shambles over the last year trying to organise the All Whites.
“We [Welnix] need to and are prepared to be involved in NZF in some capacity.
“They [NZF] nod their heads, agree verbally and look past you with glazed eyes. The impression I get is they’re more interested in the baubles of office than actually doing the job.
“I don’t want a job with them but I know what’s got to be done, I’ve written a plan for what needs to be done and I’m more than happy to share that with them. We’ll give them all the support we possibly can because it’s a win-win.
“Rob [Morrison, Welnix co-owner] has been very active in this area too, we’ve done all the thinking on what we need to go to the next level. We’re keen to get New Zealand into the top 50 in the world. Australia made that decision years ago and it’s awesome what is happening.”
Morgan says a new culture at NZF is crucial.
“NZF and the Phoenix should almost be joined at the hip. I think the Phoenix is a very important weapon for NZF,” he said.
“I’m reasonably keen even on the idea of a second New Zealand team in the A-League, obviously you would want an Auckland-based team and I’d even go as far to say that I’d be interested in investing in that.
“They [NZF] need a new culture. New people will be coming in and I’m a fair guy, I’ll give them all a fair go.”
After a week that saw English Premier League giants Manchester City invest in A-League team Melbourne Heart, Morgan says having the Phoenix in a similar situation would yield huge growth.
“The Phoenix could be an interesting prospect because it offers a whole country. Of course we’re keen to make it as attractive as possible,” he said.
“I think this type of thing could become more prevalent, we’re trying to make the Phoenix the best we can, not just to try and get some of the millions back that we’ve put into it, but trying to give New Zealand the best opportunity in football it’s ever had.
“It would offer young players a conduit. The link between Manchester City and Melbourne Heart is going to lead to player and coach exchanges, academy’s – everything a footballer dreams of and currently has to go to the UK to