OPINION: Senior football officials must feel the blade of an All Whites' autopsy after a bumbling Oceania Nations Cup performance that has robbed New Zealand of meaningful World Cup preparation, as well as hitting the game in the coffers.
New Zealand Football was in damage control after the "Honiara Humiliation" on Friday.
The best it could come up with was a facile press release yesterday suggesting the All Whites simply needed to "pick themselves up and dust themselves off" following the 2-0 semifinal loss to New Caledonia.
But behind the awful on-field performance by the All Whites lurks a series of governance and management errors. Errors committed by NZF and the Oceania Football Confederation.
The OFC Nations Cup has been a shambles. Its organisation has been a disaster that has been allowed to brew for months.
And the long-term costs to the All Whites are eye-watering.
Fiji were meant to host the Nations Cup. But when the Fijian Government issued contempt of court proceedings against OFC secretary general, and Fifa committee member, Tai Nicholas in March for comments he made in the Sunday Star-Times, Fifa ignored the situation.
Instead of seeking political resolution, the OFC stripped Fiji from hosting the Nations Cup. Those contempt charges remain against Aucklander Nicholas, despite his attempts to reach a settlement with the Fijian Government.
He still can't enter Fiji for fear of being hauled before the courts, meaning football there cannot be properly governed for the foreseeable future.
Yet Fifa still fails to resolve the situation. NZ Football chairman Frank van Hattum is in a curious position.
On the one hand, he is head of Fifa's new and seemingly powerful "transparency task force" yet he appears to have taken a hands-off approach to the Fijian situation.
He also arguably compounded the All Whites' situation by not bidding for the Nations Cup to be held in New Zealand.
While we may not have drawn the crowds the games in the Solomon Islands have enjoyed, a tournament run in Auckland would have at least been well organised and designed to help the All Whites' cause, not hinder it.
NZF needs to remain totally focused on maximising the All Whites' World Cup chances.
The bonus is the $NZ1.3m plus that comes with winning a Nations Cup that should be a romp for the All Whites.
So too is the tough, but welcome, international competition that comes with representing Oceania in the Confederations Cup. The benefit of playing in New Zealand would have been tremendous on the All Whites.
No Honiara humidity, no mid-match drink breaks forced through 40-degree heat, an acceptable playing surface and better comforts. But NZ Football skimped.
It's hard to escape the impression that NZF saw a bid as an unnecessary expense and hassle. After all, the All Whites should cruise past the likes of New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.
As it turned out, they didn't.
So, gone is the All Whites' qualification for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil – a crucial tune-up for the following year's World Cup in the same country. Gone is the $1.3m prize money which would have been injected into NZF coffers.
Four years ago, those same taxpayer-funded coffers had to be bailed out by Crown entity Sparc (now Sport NZ) with more public cash to the tune of up to $600,000 and assistance in securing a $1.5m loan.
After NZF ran an operating loss of $616,000 in the last financial year, that $1.3m could have paid for essential home All Whites internationals in the run-up to their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
The OFC executive committee, including New Zealand's Fred de Jong, must also be held to account for their poor governance of the Nations Cup which stumbles to a close today.
Using one pitch for 16 games in 10 days wouldn't be acceptable for a schoolboy tournament. The fact that some of world sport's most powerful administrators considered it appropriate to do exactly that with a flagship international championship (Oceania's equivalent of Euro 2012) is unacceptable.
A full review of the Honiara humiliation has been suggested, but NZF chief executive Grant McKavanagh has already moved to keep coach Ricki Herbert in his job.
So how far-reaching can that review be?
- © Fairfax NZ News