532 Words on: The NZF board

Wanted: Two board members. Applicants must be able to pick a football out of a police lineup. Pale, stale males need not apply.

Nine months after the Football Ferns saga that eventually led to a purge of New Zealand Football’s Executive Committee, there are two positions left to fill on a board that wants to be “more diverse and inclusive”. Those two people need to be quite a lot of things to a lot of people if the brief is going to be properly filled. President Johanna Wood says “we need to look at what skill sets we need, where the gaps are, and what we need to look for.” So what should they be looking for?

Well, looking at who we’ve got so far, there are five old white men, one brown face and two women. It’s heavy on business acumen but light on football knowledge let alone direct stakeholder representation. NZF is not a corporation and it’s not a business – it’s a sport’s governing body and should be run like one albeit with some business savvy along the way. Football brains are necessary to scrutinise football decisions. While I’m not holding my breath, I’d love to see player representatives on the board and a fan’s voice wouldn’t hurt either! But there’s another important omission I’d also like to highlight…

If you’d gone out on the street 40 years ago and asked 100 random people for their impressions of New Zealand Football, I’m guessing you’d have heard two strong themes – “incompetence” and “a game run by poms”. What’s changed? You’d hope the ‘run by poms’ part would be put more diplomatically in 2019 and both assertions would be a bit unfair but I’d still expect similar sentiments.

There’s never been a golden age of New Zealand Football. Few have ever been happy with the way our game is run – evidenced by all the chopping and changing that has occurred throughout the years. Just look at our men’s national league, often celebrated as a thing that once attracted more spectators than Lazio fans at a tractor show, as one example.

Since 1970 it’s lurched from clubs to franchises and back again. We’ve had 4 points for a win and penalty shootouts at the end of every draw, play off systems nobody seemed to want, superclub formats, and separate North and South Island leagues with playoffs for the winners and losers alike. Entities have been excluded and included in various forms from one season to the next with shifting criteria and little or no transparency. And that’s without mentioning the hallowed home of the game in its so-called heyday literally falling off a cliff because of incompetence. Then we wonder why there are no fans.

Part of the problem is every time a new broom sweeps in they think their radical new vision for the game is the way, the truth and the light. I’d like to see the new board either co-opt or utilise a ‘football kaumatua’ in an advisory capacity. Someone who has a deep knowledge and appreciation of our game’s history and the wisdom to know that, while change is often necessary, sometimes nothing is the best thing to do.