Hay: World Cup failings at NZF hierarchy's door

DANNY HAY
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2013

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OPINION: To tweak the words of former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, the wind of change is blowing through football in New Zealand.

But to think a change in coach is going to sweep away all the All Whites' worries would be delusional. There are far bigger issues at play, holding back a team, and an entire sport, with incredible potential.

As a former captain of the All Whites, I feel incredibly sympathetic to the players who have essentially been hung out to dry by the very organisation charged with ensuring their progression.

Most of the blame of the failed Mexican campaign has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Ricki Herbert. While he has to take a fair portion of responsibility, those at the helm of NZF need to front up.

At present, the spin doctors within the organisation are desperately trying to tell that Wednesday night's performance regained lost credibility. You can almost feel their collective breath being held in the hope that in the days that tick by, people will lose interest in the ‘why' and ‘how' this could all happen.

If the football community and those who want to see the All Whites succeed, allow chairman Frank van Hattum, high performance director Fred DeJong and other key decision-makers off without answering the big questions, then all that will occur is another cycle of zero progression.

Why was the build-up to Mexico so inadequate when they have known, for four years, that in all likelihood they'd be in the playoff position?

Why weren't the hard questions asked of Herbert after the Horror in Honiara when it was clear he'd started to lose the dressing room?

Where is the coaching succession plan? I could go on and on and on.

Peter Miskimmin, chief executive of Sport New Zealand, and the Minister for Sport, Murray McCully, need to push for an independent review into the state of NZF.

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.

If the decision-makers at NZF truly believe that they have done all they possibly could, given the resources available to them, then they should welcome such a review.

For growth and development to occur, they need to be prepared to open themselves up for criticism.

The time for covering backs and feathering the nests should be over.

We have a wealth of talented young players coming through the grades. It would be entirely irresponsible to allow them drift without a meaningful and attainable strategy that is going to give them the best chance to succeed as players.

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The independent examination needs to be conducted by a well respected New Zealander from outside the game, with proven experience in this type of review process.

From that, a clear strategy and direction can be formed that all the stakeholders within the game can follow with a coordinated approach.

For the development and progression of the All Whites, some key answers need to be attained. Firstly, the conjecture around the viability of moving into the Asian Confederation would be an argument that could be put to bed.

The All Whites are our flagship team, so essentially it comes down to giving them the best opportunity to evolve and develop into a consistently competitive team. Their success on the international stage will fuel the growth of the game as it did in 2010.

Regular games against quality opposition is essential for that to occur. A review would at least explain why this hasn't happened in the past and how it can happen in the future.

At present, football is the most fragmented sport this country, and NZF as the body that oversees the game needs to take responsibility for that. It is well overdue for that to change.

Danny Hay is a former All Whites captain.

- Sunday Star Times

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