Gareth Morgan's millions are a hospital pass

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 18:17 27/11/2013
Gareth Morgan
OFFER REFUSED: The Government has refused to match Gareth Morgan's offer of money to New Zealand Football.

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OPINION: I can exclusively reveal that Gareth Morgan's next project will be to take over Rowing New Zealand - due to his overwhelming desire to stick his oar in.

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week - unlike Morgan, who's bound to have something new to move on to.

Morgan appears to possess an unshakeable confidence that there isn't an issue that would be better off without his input. From climate change to cats, from penguins to public health, the moustachioed monetarist is constantly investigating ways for society to improve.

New Zealand's omnipresent philanthropist revealed his plans last weekend to save New Zealand Football with a pledge to give the game's governing body $5 million, should the government chip in with twice that. The other stipulation was that the NZF board would be immediately given the boot.

But with Prime Minister John Key telling Morgan the Government wouldn't open its wallet for the sport, it seems Morgan's coffers won't be used to bolster the game.

That seems set to save NZF from having to decide whether Morgan's money is worth the bother of the attached conditions.

While most organisations would quickly give an interfering outsider a red card, Morgan's millions aren't easy for the organisation to ignore. The code gets limited funding from Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport NZ, chiefly because of the low world-ranking of the national men's side.

NZF's likely surplus of $6 million this year came almost exclusively from television revenue garnered from the intercontinental playoff matches against Mexico, which saw the All Whites humbled 9-3 on aggregate.

With no further Fifa funding to follow after Mexico dashed any chance of a World Cup finals cash bonanza, NZF will find the lure of a sugar daddy hard to resist.

Yet Morgan's insistence that he has the magic potion should grate not just with the game's governors, but with players and fans too.

It has similar overtones to Morgan's announcement last year that the Wellington Phoenix were playing the wrong brand of football, which led to the eventual dismissal of coach Ricki Herbert. Morgan was within his rights to voice that opinion, being a part-owner of the club through the Welnix consortium.

But he doesn't own the game of football in this country, and should be reminded that the new era at the Phoenix under highly regarded coach Ernie Merrick has yet to produce a victory six games into the A-League season.

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In his indecent proposal, Morgan said NZF needs "world-class coaches at every level of the game", knowing that is only possible with a substantial cash injection.

He also wants a figurehead to guide the development of the game here. "We want one coach to rule them all, and one style of football to rule them all," he exclaimed. A Lord of Running Rings around the Opposition maybe?

While Spain and Barcelona are tearing teams apart as they tiki-taka their way to titles, that's appealing.

But football, like all sports, is forever fluid and changing. Astute coaches find ways to combat the dominant style of play and instigate new methods. That's why we've seen 2-3-5 become 4-4-2, why we've had the Whole of Football programme, the deep-lying centre forward, Catenaccio and Total Football.

So what happens if NZF decide, under Morgan's dictum, to appoint a coaching guru who espouses a particular style of play then taught to our best young players, only for that method to become obsolete by the time those talents graduate to the All Whites?

Under NZF's current Whole of Football programme, the country's youngsters are already learning the values of ball control and passing skills. Our brightest young talents practise a style of football vastly different from what had chiefly been seen from the All Whites during Herbert's stint in charge. We are now far more likely to produce players like Marco Rojas than we are Ryan Nelsen.

Morgan picked up on the comment from former Mexican great Hugo Sanchez that our players in the first-leg thumping at the Azteca Stadium resembled "failed rugby players". While Sanchez was deliberately caustic, his remark carried a sizeable kernel of truth - New Zealand footballers are rarely the cream of the athletic crop.

Those freaks of nature, many with Pacific Island or Maori heritage, gravitate to rugby and league during childhood and stay there. All Whites teams have never been blessed with pace or eye-popping athleticism, which is why the presence in the national side of captain Winston Reid and newcomer Bill Tuiloma is a tantalising glimpse of potential.

Should the game be able to attract the Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Saveas, Shaun Johnsons and Israel Daggs, football here could flourish, but it would take more than money to change a mindset.

Morgan's peculiar brand of philanthropy can at times be heavy-handed and loose-lipped, which attracts detractors and can hide worthwhile observations.

Castigating the NZF board as "a bit of an old boys' club ... like what you'd expect down at the local suburban tennis club", when the board is composed of lawyers, Treasury policymakers, chief executives, management consultants and marketing directors was a studs-up tackle worthy of a yellow card.

And while he often makes astute points in his criticism of existing structures - "the Government needed to move away from throwing money at sports after they had won medals, and instead use funding to build up success" - it's just that his ever-expanding curiosity appears to collide with an infallible belief that he knows what's best for us.

Morgan's generosity is beyond question, along with a lengthy list of hugely praiseworthy acts that have greatly benefited the unfortunate and those in need.

Yet that, along with his wealth, doesn't make him the ultimate arbiter. There's plenty of stupid rich people, and plenty of lucky ones too.

Just as there's plenty of Kiwis understandably reluctant to put Morgan in charge of their cat, let alone New Zealand Football's kitty.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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