The governance group behind the Nelson Marlborough Falcons has laid a complaint against Mainland Football CEO Mike Coggan for what it sees as an attempt to lobby Nelson clubs to withhold their support of a bid for a senior national league team.
The complaint, sent to a Mainland Football board member by TSF board member and lawyer Alex Reith relates to perceived scare mongering by "Mainland staff who somehow feel threatened by a united and strong Nelson Marlborough football front that doesn't come under their direct control."
TSF Incorporated is the group that, in 2012, successfully bid for a licence to have a Nelson-Marlborough team play in the national youth league. Despite having two bids for a senior team knocked back after the ASB Premiership was not expanded, New Zealand Football, who are looking at a league restructure, has asked TSF to submit an application for the ASB premier league.
Subsequently, TSF called a meeting last Friday to gauge the support of Nelson clubs. Believing it has full support in Marlborough, TSF wanted to show it has Nelson Bays Football support to strengthen its bid.
On Monday, the board of TSF circulated its initial proposal to clubs in Nelson. Enter Coggan, the highest ranking staff member at the Christchurch-based Mainland Football, the federation in which Nelson Bays Football sits.
Coggan sent an email to all Nelson and Marlborough member clubs with a four-page letter attached about what "Mainland Football see as challenges posed by a Nelson Falcons senior entry in the ASB Premiership".
Coggan states from the outset that so long as the Nelson Falcons' management demonstrates to Mainland Football that its entry will be fully sustainable long term, Mainland Football will support its entry.
Coggan urges clubs to question TSF as to whether it has the financial sustainability, player depth and organisational capability.
With the proviso that TSF has no "desire" to meet with Mainland Football, Coggan says Mainland Football doesn't see the Falcons senior team as "anywhere near financially sustainable".
The letter states: "Our current position based on reality over romantic notion, what we know of the thorough ASB Premiership environment and ultimate protection of the total grass roots club environment, is that a Falcons entry in the national league in the foreseeable future is simply not sustainable."
It concludes: "We must put common sense and practicality first. We do not believe a second federation team in the ASB Premiership is viable."
In response, TSF chairman Aldo Miccio wrote a letter to New Zealand Football's competitions and events manager Chris Kemp and Cam Mitchell, the community football director at New Zealand Football.
In the letter to New Zealand Football, Miccio says that previously NZF has recognised and documented a conflict of interest with the governance structure between Mainland Football and the national league franchise Canterbury United, with respect as to how it views the TSF bid for a senior franchise. Miccio says this is because Canterbury United is run by Mainland Football staff.
With regards to Coggan's letter, Miccio says it is "completely inappropriate and under-handed behaviour of Mainland Football to negatively influence our bid and the support we are enjoying across members in the region.
"The Nelson and Marlborough football communities have come together under the Falcons banner and see themselves as one, with strong aspirations of their own and we believe the geographical disconnect with Canterbury has Mainland senior management concerned."
In his letter to the Mainland board, Reith has asked it to circulate a letter from Mainland Football putting forward the point that Coggan's letter is his personal view and not one shared by the board.
Reith says there are "many reasons" why the letter is incorrect, inaccurate or "just plain propaganda".
He makes the point that the original bid saw a Nelson Falcons' junior team accepted but not a senior side as a potential Premiership league expansion did not go ahead.
"Please bear in mind that Mainland staff openly decried our bid for the Youth League," Reith says.. "Not enough money, not enough talent, no proper organisation were all phrases thrown our way.
"Two years on and we were the Southern Conference champs, with a well-run and successful team. Deja vu comes to mind when going through Mr Coggan's letter."
TSF Inc plans to send its final bid to New Zealand Football on Monday.
- The Nelson Mail