Waikato coach gets unexpected support

Beleaguered Waikato FC coach Declan Edge has got support from an unexpected quarter.

Leading New Zealand football writer and former Waikato FC board member Bruce Holloway  has defended Edge in the wake of his censure for comments about officiating.

"Me at my best has a conspiracy theory that they don’t want Waikato winning games and making it into the O-League.

"That’s the second game on the trot we’ve had a referee who has been in charge of his first Premiership game. I think we deserve better respect and top referees," Edge told the Waikato Times nf following his side’s 1-0 away loss to Waitakere United earlier this month.

New Zealand Football operations manager Glynn Taylor called Edge’s comments unacceptable and, the ifTimes nf understands, slapped a $500 fine on the franchise, later reduced to a suspended fine.

Under clause 28.2 of national league regulations "no person is entitled to bring the National League, NZF, the game or any related issue into disrepute. 

"In particular, coaches and Franchise Club Players are not entitled to communicate negative comments to the media, aimed at any official, which results in such disrepute.  Any person who breaches this clause will be liable to a fine of $500 per breach, at the sole discretion of NZF."

But Holloway, who as chairman of Melville United presided over Edge’s departure from Gower Park in August by refusing to reappoint him as winter league coach, said it would be "killing an ant with a sledge-hammer" to persecute Edge (and Waikato) for such mild comments.

"The only thing anyone could take offence at would be the suggestion in Declan’s initial phrase about a conspiracy theory (‘me at my best has a conspiracy theory that they don’t want Waikato winning games…’). But people must understand that he was just being self-deprecating," Holloway said.

"Declan was essentially poking fun at his own past excesses in prefacing a more serious frustration about inexperienced referees.

"He doesn’t really think there is a conspiracy."

Holloway acknowledged Edge’s choice of words may have been slightly injudicious.

‘‘But I think the game is in danger of getting too carried away with its code of conduct clauses.

‘‘Coaches are traditionally the mouth-pieces for the production of the game in New Zealand, and we need them to be free to make, and substantiate reasonable comment, particularly when the outcome of a game is determined by one controversial refereeing decision.

‘‘Declan raised such a talking point at the conclusion of this match. Unfortunately NZ Football holds the view that the media is not the place to be having such discussions.

‘‘But if we relied on national administrators for an insight into what is occurring in the game, think how little we would know.

‘‘To my mind football is a game of passionate opinions and it is actually the sign of a healthy code to allow a free flow of ideas and robust comment in the public domain. 

‘‘Indeed, one of the best ways I could think of to kill interest in the national league would be to muzzle all such expressions. We need more public debate about what is working, and what isn’t, at national league level.

‘‘The national league faces some huge issues at present, but silencing a coach is not one of them.’’

Waikato Times