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Around the Forums – Dark times

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“I think the ball is in (Phoenix’s) court. We’re ambitious for the growth of the A-League. You can’t expect to squat on a license.” – David Gallop

There is a theory that football clubs are families and that football lovers the world over are one gigantic family. Not always a happy family – there are in-laws and outlaws – but a family none the less. And an injury to one is an injury to all. If that’s true, the death of a football club is a death in the family – and whatever kind of family you are in, we all know it’s the hard times that bring us together.

Over the past couple of days, since we learned that it seems Football Federation Australia no longer want a New Zealand team in their competition, we have seen the above theory put into practice. Fans, players and club management from right across the full slate of rival teams in Australia have come out in support of the Wellington Phoenix. Because we’re family, but also because if it can happen to us it can happen to them too…

Clubs die all the time, all over the world. But in most instances it’s a club in a league system that dies due to financial mismanagement. The possible death of the Phoenix is different. They are financially stable for a start. But also because in those league systems, fans can and often do get together and start anew in the lower leagues and work their way back up the ladder – like AFC Wimbledon or Fiorentina have in recent years. A franchise, on the other hand, can disappear at the stroke of a pen and leave behind it a sense of helplessness that there’s no coming back from.

The FFA is not running OUR game with family in mind. They are running it as a big faceless, soulless, corporation where decisions are made with no regard for sentimentality. David Gallop is not a football guy as far as I can tell. His online bios show no perceptible interest in the sport until he took over the FFA. Does he care? Chairman Frank Lowy is a businessman – a shopping mall magnate. He hasn’t gotten to where he is today by giving a stuff about ruining people’s lives. When you look at the board and senior management of the FFA, Lawyers and business types are well and truly in the ascendency over football people. And this whole business has all the hallmarks of a ruthless corporate restructure.

This is why governing bodies, while they might need business acumen advising, must be run by people who actually care about OUR game and know and empathise with what makes it and us tick. What we have seen in the last 48 hours is what you get when you let business minds make all the decisions. There is no humanity.

This is what it does to people, as told by Yellow Fever Forum commenters and Twittereristi:

‘hepatitis’:

“We are on our way out. FFA have shown their colours. It’s just a matter of when.”

‘valeo’:

“So the only hope we have is to take the 4 years and hope we can somehow get by until someone at the FFA grows a brain? Fantastic.”

‘Maynardf’:

“The news of early this week has left me broken and down. I never truly knew what it was to have your heart broken, and it absolutely gutting. Normally I have two recordings in my phone that pick me up whenever I am down. The first is Jason Pine calling that historic night in November against Bahrain to send New Zealand to the world cup, the second again is Jason Pine calling the penalty shootout against Perth. Both moments still give me the chills, and remind me of how awesome life can be.”

‘james dean’:

“that’s the end of the a league for me. Why bother”

‘ballane’:

“Actually would prefer Welnix just come out and say sorry guys we tried but we are not prepared to continue in a competition that doesn’t want us so we are not going to waste any more money. Then shut up shop today that’s it all over would save Welnix and us fans a lot more heartache and money.”

‘bwtcf’:

“I don’t know what to do. I’m scared, and angry, and numb, and frustrated, and bewildered, all at the same time and alternating between each of those states. I feel like a rudderless ship in a storm. Come On You Nix. Keep on keeping on. Please.”

‘Yakall’:

“Now, I’m left wondering what to do with my summers if it all goes. Sure I’ll still get football over the winter and will still be down at the park watching local games but we have something special in the Phoenix and in Yellow Fever. I brought my girl her first membership this year and now it has the chance of being her last, which brings me to tears that she may never actually get to see them play and remember it apart from photos I will take when I take her this year.”

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‘paulm’:

“I’m still a little bit in shock right now

But this is so crappy. So so so crappy.

The FFA are ridiculous to kick us out. Aside from the horror of losing my team my head is screaming that we should give them the big F*CK YOU on the 4 year extension and desert this shambles of a league.

Someone convince Welnix to invest in the ASB premiership…”

‘AucklandPhoenix’:

“For the first time in my life I want to hear Gareth and quickly”

‘CboZ’:

“Gutted, all I can say. If you ask anyone who knows me the first thing that comes to their mind when they think of me it’ll be the Phoenix seriously.”

‘el grapadura’:

“The four year thing is a smokescreen – it’s not actually a counter-offer, but just an option that clubs can invoke under the Club Participation Agreement (and even then it’s not guaranteed to succeed).

The reality is that the FFA has grown cold on the Phoenix – we’re not seen as commercially viable, and they believe that they can get better value out of a solely Australian league. And to be fair, commercial factors aren’t on our side, but it seems deeply unfair that we’re penalised because a) a lot of those factors are out of our control (especially the TV deal and viewership figures). and b) Phoenix’s presence and sound management under Wellnix helped this league remain viable when Australian clubs were falling over (and some remain in a pretty precarious position).

Pursuing the four-year option in this context seems foolish – you’re essentially banking on the environment changing in a fairly radical fashion from this point on to be able to stay in the competition beyond 2020, especially considering that influencing such a change will be a very difficult thing to achieve from NZ. Wellnix guys are smart and shrewd businessmen, I can’t see why they would want to keep pouring money into a hole on a wing and a prayer.

Depending on what the terms and conditions of the CPA (and what penalties are involved in withdrawing from the competition mid-season) – walking out right now might even be an option. Would be a sad way to end this journey though.”

‘threatD’:

“I am quite surprised at the continuous excuses we find as a group as to why the previous weekends attendance was so poor. X or Y event was on so people had other stuff on, the weather was bullshark, the time was terrible… newsflash; there will always be other events on, the weather will always be bullshark, we are more often than not going to be playing in crappy time slots due to time zones.

The blame needs to be placed on the population and nix fans for not showing up.”

‘Ryan’:

“For the city of Wellington and the nz football community it’s going to be a case of you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. People are seriously going to regret this.”

‘Jag’:

“The men in suits at the FFA won’t read this, I doubt they’d care even if they did read it, but I’ll remember Monday, October 26th 2015 for a very long time. Probably for ever. I’ll remember that, at around 6.50pm that night, I told my football mad 7 year old son, Euan, that the Phoenix probably wouldn’t exist after the current season ended. I’ll remember how he looked at me with his eyes filled with his tears as he asked me why. I’ll remember that I had to tell him that some people didn’t want the Nix in the A League any more, and I’ll remember how I was holding back my own tears as I had to try and explain a decision which I don’t understand myself. Ultimately, that will be the legacy of the FFA, as far as I’m concerned. They made my son cry and, no matter what happens now or in the future, I will never forget or forgive that.”

If this is the end, I will be in Wellington for the last home game just as I was there for the first. Then I will never watch another A-League game as long as I live. And I make this solemn vow to the FFA: I may not have much power in this world, but I am very good at holding grudges and if I ever get the chance to screw you – count on getting screwed.

You may have noticed that this blog has turned black. That is because the New Zealand football family is mourning the attempted murder of something very special. #SaveTheNix

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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: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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