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An afternoon with Brian Turner

WaiBOP United 0, Auckland City 2
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, January 18 2014

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Prior to last weekend’s WaiBOP United vs Auckland City game Cambridge United hosted a VIP lunch with a very special guest speaker. Brian Turner was an All White in 1982 when New Zealand qualified for the World Cup for the very first time. He was also team manager when we qualified for the very second time, for South Africa 2010, and through to the present up to and including our nation’s failed qualification campaign for Brazil 2014.

He didn’t hold back! What he had to say was both interesting and, in parts, controversial. He had a lot to say about the successes and failures of the national team over the past few years and some strong opinions on what ills the game in this country at the present time. In particular, he was not afraid to voice some very strong criticisms of his employer. He accuses the Board of New Zealand Football of “losing touch with what is required at international level” and making decisions that hampered the All Whites’ preparation for their disastrous World Cup qualification tie with Mexico which they went on to lose 9-3 on aggregate.

This did not sound like someone who was expecting to stay in his job much longer.

The session was the best part of an hour and a half long and I recorded the whole thing. I have pulled out what I think are the most interesting quotes and published them below without commentary. So without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Brian Turner.

“The board has made decisions in the last four or five years, for football in New Zealand, that come back and haunt the national coach with what he’s doing, and it’s not right, but I mean the people who make those decisions, the people who said that the players can travel business class, the players can have 40% of prize money and all those sorts of things, they have to be held accountable for those things. Because now in the game, commercially you can’t get games to work…”

“Every time you sit down and say ‘ok, we’re going to play Trinidad and Tobago, we’ve got $250,000 in airfares before we start because the players travel business class’. So to offset some of your airfare costs you say to the nation you’re going to play ‘well give us a match fee’. So you might get $50,000 but you’re still up for $200,000 to play an international game of football …and the board made those decisions four years ago.”

“The board made the decision not to have the Nations Cup played in New Zealand because it was going to cost $600,000, but if we’d qualified for the Confederations Cup New Zealand would have got 2 million US dollars. The board said ‘no, we’re not going to take that risk’, so we go to Honiara and we get beaten in the most unbelievable conditions that you could ever imagine.”

“I honestly think and I actually sat down with Frank [van Hattum], the Chairman of New Zealand Football, last Monday and I said to him ‘mate, the board has lost touch with what is required at international level.’”

“The board gave a certain amount of money to the programme [qualification for Brazil] and it was a quarter of a million dollars… but if you can imagine, we’re going to play a few games, it doesn’t go too far when, again, we’re travelling business class so we were woefully short of money. That hampered our preparation.”

“Mexico had 28 games in the past 14 months and I think we had 6.”

“Money is the biggest problem for New Zealand Football. It doesn’t generate enough money to run the game. It was the same when John [Adshead] was involved, and it’s the same now. It’s a battle of fixing it there and fixing it there, with a little bit there and a little bit there and… The game needs money. It needs investment. The more you go forward in football the more money you’ve got to spend.”

“I said to Ricki when we were in South Africa, ‘one day this is going to be our nemesis’, because when we drew 1-1 with Italy …people will expect us now to play anybody and get those sort of results but it’s never going to happen on a regular basis unless you have all the things in place and all the infrastructure to move forward with.”

“I would say Neil Emblen has every chance to do that [be the next coach of New Zealand]. He’s a very nice bloke, he’s got great football knowledge, he knows the game inside out, he’s been under Ricki now for three years and the players respect him, the players sort of know his pedigree – what he’s done and where he’s been.”

“There’s no one that stands out in the foreseeable future …ASB Premiership? Where would you find someone in the ASB Premiership to coach at international level? Once you get up to that level …you’ve got to know your stuff. You’ve got to fly by the seat of your pants sometimes and the thing gets pretty hot when you’re under the pump and people are raining down on the goal and you’re 1-0 down and you’ve got to make good, quick, sound decisions.”

“The number one objective for clubs in the ASB Premiership, as I understand, should be preparing players to play in the national team but not every club has that belief or that desire. You’re not going to see many players come straight out of the ASB Premiership and go into the national team. If you look at the players that have really made it in football, other than Ryan, they all go to clubs in Europe and they make their names there.”

“Every mum and dad thinks their kids are good enough to go and play professional football and 99% of them don’t have a clue what it entails and how difficult it is and what they have to do to get there. So we send player after player after player to England and word gets around that ‘the New Zealand players that come here aren’t too good.’ That doesn’t do the game any good.”

“I think our football will progress [if we move out of Oceania and into the Asian Confederation] but we won’t qualify for World Cups, we won’t qualify for age group World Cups like we do now. In Oceania we qualify all the time so our 17s and 20s go to basically every World Cup. You’re not going to do that if you go into Asia but I do think that for the All Whites to prosper, that’s a really important thing but it’s hard for the board of New Zealand Football to decide which way to go because if they go to Asia it’s going to cost them bucket loads of money. Even Australia are struggling financially and their teams have very rarely qualified for World Cups in recent years.”

“I think it [the ASB Premiership] should be club based but financially it probably won’t work and that’s the concern. If you’re going to play in a national league in New Zealand, how many teams would you have? 12-14 flying around the country? How many clubs other than Central could afford to do that?”

“When we qualified for the World Cup in 2010 and New Zealand Football had just employed a new high performance manager …he asked us what our plans were. Ricki had everything and sort of put the programme out and then this high performance manager, he was a surf lifesaving high performance manger, and he said …’Ricki, I don’t agree with that, I don’t think we should be doing that’ and the next thing was ‘I don’t give a toss about what you think, this is what we’re going to do. I’m the coach and this is the way forward’ and that’s what happened.”

“You can talk about the players that were selected, the result, you can talk about everything but Mexico had lost one game in 78 in the Azteca Stadium, so why would people write the game up, before the game, saying we were going there to do this or that? You’re going there, trust me, to try and get a result. You’re not going to try and win the game. If you can win the game it’s like, unbelievable – but you’re going there to try and get a result, limit the damage, get out of there and you’ve got a chance at home.”

“The amount of money that we invest into football, we so much punch above our weight it’s not funny. But it’s not possible to keep doing that.”

Categories: All Whites NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

4 replies

  1. Hi Enzo, really enjoy reading your blog. Good to keep abreast of football in NZ. Working abroad which brought a premature end to my refereeing career in in the Northen League and ASB Premiership some 5 years ago. Your blog is both entertaining and insightful. Keep it up.

  2. That’s first-class journalism actually Enzo! Many interesting insights into the All Whites and NZ Football which we haven’t got from mainstream media. Many problems seem to have come from the NZ Football board and some staff like High Performance Director not being competent.
    Interesting Van Hattum stood down as Chairman after a frank discussion with Brian Turner over problems in the way the World Cup campaign was directed….
    Enzo, have you heard of this world-famous Italian Kiwi I went to school with in Nelson, Anthony Romano, who could provide some useful business and organizational input for football in New Zealand: After a childhood and university education in Nelson and Christchurch, Anthony has held several international executive positions including CEO and board director of Calvin Klein’s European head office, Timberlands fashion brand and general manager and board director of Italian syndicate Luna Rossa during the 2007 America’s Cup Challenge. He moved back to Christchurch before the earthquakes where he briefly ran his own consulting company but moved back to Milan subsequently. He is still an owner and director of the Christchurch tram and gondola companies (“Wood Scenic Line”), as well as being on the board of Christchurch aerospace company Martin Aviation (developer of the “Jet Pack”).

    1. Hi Peter, cheers for the great comment and compliment!

      I commented on the Yellow Fever forum before the FVH resignation that I thought reading between the lines there might be a rift on the board between ex-players and business types and maybe Brian’s comments were designed to be helpful to Frank. We’ll never know but I’m suspicious that there’s more to Van Hattum’s resignation than work commitments… I know a little bit about Frank Van Hattum at BP and he’s a good man from what I’ve heard so it’s a shame he’s going.

      Anthony sounds great! I’m a big fan of Luna Rossa and his surname (also my middle name). New Zealand football needs more Romani! 🙂

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