New Zealand Football would be torn asunder if it was subjected to the scrutiny the New Zealand Rugby Union is under constantly.
Either the Government or the rugby union is the most discussed and analysed organisation in New Zealand. Take your pick, but from what I can see, more people seem interested in talking rugby than politics, as bizarre as that might sound.
New Zealand is full of rugby “experts” and the publicity the sport generates through print and broadcasting media is astounding.
Considering the incredible spotlight it operates in, the rugby union does pretty well. That’s not to say it’s flawless, but these days it generally gets the big decisions right and it has been fortunate to have Steve Tew as its chief executive for the past decade.
New Zealand Football, on the other hand, has lurched from one shambles to the next. It is fortunate it doesn’t attract more criticism.
Numbers are hard to pinpoint, but it seems football has become New Zealand’s biggest participation sport, ahead of rugby, with cricket, netball and basketball following.
Many of the footballers are primary school children, and I suppose most of the adults just like to get out there and have a game without bothering themselves overly with the way the sport is run at the top level.
It’s a pity in a way, because New Zealand Football is not doing justice to its large membership, and hasn’t for years.
A classic recent example has been the coverup of the review into the All Whites’ recent World Cup qualifying failure.
Anyone who follows sport could see that campaign was dismal. Ricki Herbert’s team had no buildup to speak of and went into their most important match in nearly four years, against Mexico, woefully underprepared. The All Whites were swept aside 5-1.
That lop-sided result rendered the return match in Wellington virtually meaningless.
What went wrong? Was it poor selection, poor coaching by Herbert, under-performing players, adverse conditions they had no control over, poor preparation or abysmal administration?
We may never know because New Zealand Football won’t release its independent report.
That is in direct contrast to the rugby union’s action in releasing its report into the unsatisfactory All Blacks performance at the 2007 World Cup (a quarterfinal exit).
Why would the national football association not want the report aired? Quite probably to save itself embarrassment. I’d wager that if the report was robust, it pointed the finger squarely at the sport’s administrators.
There has been a constant turnover of chief executives and other leading officials at New Zealand Football. None seems especially capable and they generally slip into defence mode at any suggestion of being challenged.
New Zealand football has had two great moments – qualifying for the 1982 and 2010 World Cups. It is a sad fact that on both occasions, the national association failed to capitalise on the lift in publicity and interest in the sport following the All Whites’ exposure on the world stage.
Despite the tremendous following football has in this country, and the ever-growing playing numbers, New Zealand football will always struggle if it can’t find honest, progressive, knowledgeable people to run the game.
The latest coverup suggests we’re still a fair way from that.