Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Curious Case of NZ Football

Remember back around the Olympics how there was the controversy about the Wellington Phoenix's decision not to release Shane Smeltz and Tony Lochhead to the NZ Under-21 team? If not, here's a refresher course.

Also, there was the whole thing about Football NZ receiving a funding boost from SPARC following their improved performance last year.

I've done a little researching and found out that the Wellington Phoenix do not and can not receive funding from Football NZ. The reason why? They're an Australian team. This is due to the structure of the Hyundai A-League, which requires clubs and their players to be registered in Australia in order to compete. Which is understandable, because if they were a New Zealand team in an Australian competition it would lead to all kinds of arguments from anybody who wished to enter about 'well why can't we' etc, whereas this way the administrators can turn around and say 'well hey, we had a spare license and they had the best offer at the time'.

There are two things that don't make sense though. Firstly, the way this arrangement works makes the Phoenix ineligible for any of that SPARC money. Which means they're paying for these players out of their own pocket. I don't think most NZ Football punters understand this, which led to the unpatriotic calls around the Smeltz-Lochhead saga. I'm sure if the Phoenix had come out and made that clear, then the situation would have remained a lot calmer. Because who can blame them for trying to get their money's worth?

Secondly, just why did the Men's Footballers receive such a big boost? I had assumed it was as a result of the Phoenix's performance, but if they aren't a SPARC team this can't be the case. They did well last year to almost lock up a World Cup berth, but can't that also be attributed to the Phoenix and the fact that most of the players in the All Whites are now getting regular game time with the same coach?

Note: Congrats to both the Men's and Women's teams, they did spectacularly last season.

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