Maybe it's not Wellington Phoenix's fault at all

DANNY HAY
Last updated 13:29 10/02/2013

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OPINION: This past week was a lightbulb moment.

Here we were thinking the Phoenix - tipped to be title contenders pre- season - were just inexcusably underperforming and playing crap football.

But with revelations by Europol that match-fixing is rife in the game, perhaps there is a legitimate reason for the Phoenix's results?

Aussie legend Robbie Slater added weight to this theory when he said: "You can't rule anything out", in his belief that the A-League is not immune to the potential of match- fixing.

Maybe, just maybe, it's not the Phoenix's fault after all.

Could they just be the unfortunate victims of a criminal Singaporean betting syndicate?

Perhaps Ricki Herbert's failure to set his team up with any sort of tactical awareness or ability to maintain possession at all is part of a massive scam. Herbert may have no choice. For all we know, he might be being held to ransom.

Is it that he's being forced to encourage performances lacking in basic desire, hunger and application from his players (as we again saw in Thursday's 5-0 trouncing by Central Coast) in order to please "the syndicate"?

The scandal may even spread beyond Herbert. Is Gareth Morgan a pawn - the Kiwi connection for those in charge overseas?

So when Mr Morgan turned up at the Phoenix training session last month, was he there to relay a message rather than observe, as was reported? On that clipboard he appeared to be furiously scribbling on, was something written along the lines of: "Remember Herbert, make sure they play averagely, or else".

Where am I going with this?

Of course my little tale is tongue in cheek, but if you can't have a laugh about the Phoenix this season, it's enough to make you cry.

Fantasy unfortunately, seems so much more appealing than reality right now. At least my tall tale would provide a legitimate excuse for the Phoenix's dismal season to date.

In all honesty, it would probably be easier to swallow than the truth.

The Phoenix are a club that has so much untapped potential to succeed, but they are slowly losing any remaining credibility through their on-field performances. While the players have to take some responsibility for that, I don't think the majority of blame should fall on their shoulders. They clearly aren't getting any direction or leadership.

As for the football match-fixing scandal that was uncovered last week, are people really that naive to think that the world's biggest game isn't susceptible to corruption?

Of course, it is a genuine concern that needs to be dealt with, but what has made me chuckle is the suggestion that this has damaged the game's reputation and will seriously affect its credibility.

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Please - we're not talking about cricket, where a dozen nations play the sport.

Fifa has more member countries than the United Nations.

The game has had scandal before, and will again, but it's water off a duck's back. It's simply too big and too popular worldwide to be brought down by such events. I'm picking there won't be so much as a drop in gate takings, TV viewers, or general interest for the next round of Champions League matches - despite this recent revelation.

Danny Hay is a former All White

- © Fairfax NZ News

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