532 Words on: Agendas

I’ve been accused of pushing my own agenda many, many, many times. And I don’t know where it comes from because as vicious rumours go it’s a particularly nasty not to mention utterly baseless one that I absolutely refute. I do not have an agenda at all. I have tons of them.

And what’s wrong with that? Don’t we all have agendas? If you think everyone should pretend football is all jolly hockey sticks, sweetness and light, and about nothing more than the simple pleasure of chasing after a sphere, then guess what? Sorry to break it to you Buckeroo but that right there is an agenda. On two levels.

On the surface it’s an agenda to remain blissfully ignorant. And, whether you like it or not, by default, it’s also an agenda for leaving things just the way they are – which might suit you if you’re privileged enough but unfortunately it doesn’t suit a lot of people.

Wanting to make football better is not a crime.

My agendas have been many and varied over the years. Equality for women in the game, getting more Maori and Pasifika kids playing the game, making sure the voices of fans are treated with the importance they deserve, and getting South Auckland represented in the men’s National League to name four. But I suppose if I can be accused of a single agenda it probably all boils down to a desire that football become less elitist. Because right now in my opinion it’s very elitist. And that can’t be allowed to continue.

It’s overwhelmingly a white middle class game for white middle class kids and white middle class senior teams at white middle class clubs run by white middle class administrators governed by a white middle class national body. I admit there are pockets of potential but show me those pockets and I’ll show you all the structural barriers and extra hurdles they have to overcome just to exist. This might be changing but it’s not changing anywhere near fast enough.

You still need wealthy parents to be able to afford to play for your country.

South Auckland still has no National League representation and precious few quality facilities – I don’t know of any multimillion dollar all-weather artificial pitches between William Green Domain and the Bombay Hills.

While equality for women in our game is on some sort of pathway towards some semblance of getting there, the game is still overwhelmingly gender binary and doesn’t cater well at all for transgender sportspeople.

And football is not doing anywhere close to the stratosphere of enough to promote the game or versions of the game to and for the disability community. Futsal and beach soccer are deemed far more important and if that’s not the very definition of elitism then I don’t know what is.

Next year, I’ll be focusing almost exclusively on photography across a range of different sports including football. I may not write much, if at all, from now on – but these issues won’t go away and silence does not equal contentment with the status quo. It just means I’ve done my bit and it’s time for other people to make their voices heard.