NZF boss wants closer alignment with Phoenix

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2014
Andy Martin
Photosport
TOP MAN: New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin.

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New Zealand Football must align with the Wellington Phoenix, stabilise its bleeding books and place greater emphasis on future targets, says new chief executive Andy Martin.

Three weeks into the job, Martin is NZ Football's fourth chief executive in six years and inherits a tough challenge - including a business model running at increased losses of $1.2 million and a national men's team floating without a head coach or a World Cup slot.

The Briton is, however, optimistic and in a 40-minute interview, acknowledges "a great opportunity" and that many of the issues long and publicly debated in the game likely require attention.

Martin's also a listener, with the first few weeks of his term spent under the radar, canvassing the opinions of the football community, including previous employees of NZ Football.

A high-achiever in global banking, Martin moved into sports administration four years ago when he took the reins of top-flight English rugby club London Irish. And, he admits, the circumstances in which he arrives here are more than slightly familiar.

"I think this job is pretty similar. The challenges are the brand, competing against a bigger sport, in this case rugby, whereas with London Irish it was football. You've got to make money, you can't just sit back and take central funding," Martin said.

"Those four years learning about sports administration in a small business, combined with running a big chunk of Barclays, there's actually an awful lot there that, hopefully, will be useful in this job."

Although Martin's finalised vision for the All Whites awaits the result of an independent review into last year's failed World Cup qualifying campaign, he says all international teams must play more frequently and that the search for a new All Whites coach won't be rushed. He is also clear on other business goals.

Receiving annual six-figure sums from world body Fifa, Martin says NZ Football is in a privileged position compared to other national sports. However, the books ran at a deficit of $1.2m the past financial year and need urgent attention.

Ultimately, can NZ Football stop relying on World Cup windfalls every four years?

"That's a good question. I'm more comfortable with profit and loss-type approaches. If we have a four-year World Cup policy, that's fine, but we've still got to be looking at the P&L [profit and loss] on an annual basis to show that we're healthy," he said.

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"That's not just the centre, that's the federations as well, making sure collectively we are healthy."

Part of the solution is a more active marketing strategy.

"First of all we've got to make sure we're looking after our current partners. One of the big things we've got to sort out is sponsorship architecture, sorting out what rights we have and how to slice and dice them so we can make sure there's room for senior and junior partners.

"Also, someone asked me why was the All Whites' game against Japan not marketed earlier? It's a really good question. That should have been marketed and profiled. We saw how well the Auckland Nines was pushed, we've got to make sure our game is profiled just as well."

Martin also appears in agreement with key philosophies of Wellington Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan, saying the national body must work more closely with the nation's only professional club, plus raise the profile of the domestic league.

"We've got to align with the Phoenix and I'd love to see a second professional side. There's a really strong model in Wales about how you can take two football teams and place them in a rugby environment. We have the same challenge but with the sports flipped," he said.

"Gareth is passionate, clearly, and I need him on the inside batting outwards, not outwards batting in. And that's my objective.

"It's common sense and we've plans to meet soon."

- Sunday Star Times

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