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Gareth Morgan calls for a footballing shake-up

KERRY MCBRIDE AND SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 25/11/2013
Gareth Morgan
OFFER REFUSED: The Government has refused to match Gareth Morgan's offer of money to New Zealand Football.

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Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan has called for a total overhaul of New Zealand Football, saying it is an embarrassment and being run like a local tennis club.

Morgan, who is part of the Welnix consortium which owns the Phoenix, said he would put up $5 million of his own money to fix the sport's troubles, but only if the Government would chip in a further $10 million and turf out the current board of NZ Football.

"I suspect in New Zealand football it's a bit of an old boys' club. It's a bit like what you'd expect down at the local suburban tennis club where it's run by tennis enthusiasts who played on those courts when they were kids," said Morgan.

"That's fine, but football is far bigger than just a social activity - it's not only a business but it has big geopolitical consequences."

The All Whites had been an embarrassment in their recent World Cup qualifying matches against Mexico, and were playing the wrong kind of football, Morgan said.

"The Mexicans were on the ball with what they said - it's like the players are all failed rugby players."

To change that, there needed to be consistency and world-class coaches at every level of the game, and NZ Football was failing to deliver.

There was "complete organisational chaos" and a new board with business and strategic acumen was essential, he said.

"Just because you're a football person doesn't mean you know the first thing about implementing a strategy, setting a direction and making sure it's executed."

While Morgan said he had people in mind for a new board, he would not be one of them.

The Government needed to move away from throwing money at sports after they had won medals, and instead use funding to build up success.

Coaching, playing style and the current football competitions such as the national league all needed to be reassessed to reflect a more professional style of play, he said.

"We need to virally infect the whole footballing establishment with excellence. We want one coach to rule them all, and one style of football to rule them all."

Current Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick offered the right experience to lead the change, but they were yet to discuss the proposal.

NZ Football interim chief executive Mark Aspden said there would be a review into the All Whites' failed World Cup campaign and independent experts would be consulted.

Aspden said he would be surprised if the board took Morgan up on his offer but he was willing to talk about the issues raised.

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"Any offers of help are always appreciated but our most important plan is to review the last campaign and go from there," Aspden said.

"It may well be that working more closely with the Phoenix is part of that plan but I don't want to pre-judge that review. Lots of people have got lots of good ideas for football in New Zealand and we can't do all of them."

Aspden rejected Morgan's "old boys' club" claim, saying the NZ Football board were volunteers but high achievers in their fields.

The All Whites had a larger profile, but he pointed to the Football Ferns women's team's excellent recent results, including wins over highly ranked Brazil and China.

And NZ Football's Whole of Football plan was already working towards improving the skill level of young players, he said.

"They're not quickfire solutions to anything or sexy news stories but they're really important to the long-term future of the game."

"I believe the administration at the top of the game is broken, and I understand the anger and disappointment from All Whites players who were never given a chance to put their best foot forward against Mexico," Hay wrote.

- The Dominion Post

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