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The case for North Shore City

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By Steve Browning

The thing that’s struck me since we went public with our North Shore City bid is the speed and sincerity of the support that’s swung in behind our vision of bringing national league football back to the North Shore.

Naturally, those who remember the national league exploits of Takapuna and North Shore United – 51 and 128 years old respectively – are excited but it’s beyond our own membership where the support excites us.

Other North Shore clubs have sent messages of good luck while a common theme when talking to neutral football fans in other parts of the country is that it “makes sense” to have a team in an area with one of New Zealand’s largest player bases and with a general population about the size of Wellington and Dunedin combined.

At local government level, the council have pledged support for our plan to transform Taharoto Park, which already boasts arguably the best playing surface north of the Harbour Bridge, into a boutique ground of which the league and our fans will be proud. Fencing will be added, floodlights installed and grandstands moved from Allen Hill Stadium while that facility undergoes a multi-million dollar makeover.

It’ll be a fantastic venue that’s close to public transport, the motorway and Takapuna’s bars and restaurants. Just as importantly it won’t be in an existing ASB Premiership club’s backyard but in an untapped market for fans and corporate support.

Most significantly, the backing of Northern Football has added real momentum to our cause and emphasises that this venture is for the whole North Shore region.

A Memorandum of Understanding with a club’s local federation is now mandatory for all ASB Premiership clubs and I believe we may be the first of the bidders to tick that box.

New Zealand Football have been championing this sort of integration when signalling the expansion of the league and its realignment with other aspects of the sport at grassroots level.

“The ASB Premiership is the connection point between our thriving grassroots base in the Whole of Football programme and our elite international teams operating under the Beyond Football Plan,” said NZF Community Director Cam Mitchell back in September.

A month later in announcing the outcome of the competitions review and calling for expressions of interest, NZF emphasised the need of clubs to “align to the strategic vision and requirements we need.”

“Our intention is to foster the creation and development of clubs which are superbly run, sustainable hubs for the game where our most talented players, coaches, referees and administrators can thrive and see a clear pathway to the top of the sport.”

North Shore City is well placed to complete this pathway for the thousands of aspiring players this side of the Harbour Bridge whose opportunities are bottlenecked at national league or national youth league level.

Our two foundation clubs, Takapuna and North Shore United have been delivering Whole of Football Programmes since they were introduced. We have partnerships with local high schools and North Shore United recently was awarded the Quality Club Mark, a process NZF have also indicated would be introduced for ASB Premiership clubs.

We have more qualified coaches than anyone on the Shore and I’d wager more than most clubs in Auckland and even some federations. Seventy of our coaches have gone through NZF programmes in the last 12 months alone.

A national league license would be a ringing endorsement for club and federation alignment from top to bottom and would clear a pathway for a host of Northern Football Federation talent.

North Shore City has the right structures, a player pool starved of opportunities and the backing of our federation that allows us to deliver outcomes for the largest area not currently served by an ASB Premiership club. We offer a strong, stable and sustainable option for expansion.

A long, proud and decorated national league history on the North Shore has been put on hold for the last decade or so. The time, and crucially, the reasons are right to reprise it.

[This is the second in a series of guest posts from bidding entities stating why they would make great ASB Premiership clubs. If you are bidding for a spot and would like to participate in this feature, e-mail me via casagiordani at orcon dot net dot nz – I have already been in touch with some but don’t have contact details for everyone. I’m not leaving you out on purpose! 🙂 ]

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

5 replies

  1. Hi Steve,

    Congratulations on the ambition evident in your national league bid for North Shore.

    But to play devil’s advocate (as I did with Eastern Suburbs the other day) I would pose a few questions.

    Back in November 2003 North Shore United chairman of the time, Dave Coshan, announced his club would NOT be among the applicants for the soon-to-be-launched New Zealand Football Championship, saying it was simply too expensive.

    “Running a national league team is a real strain with no return,” he said.

    My question is: How would you respond to such comments about league affordability today? What has changed?

    And to what extent would national league operations on the Shore be reliant on being subsidised by the grass roots player subscription base of the two clubs, as opposed to the operations of a newly structured franchise?

    A North Shore team has now been out of the national league for over 15 years. But in that time there would appear – to the casual outsider at least – that there has been very little in the way of facility development at Takapuna or North Shore.

    Why, during this intervening period, do you think has there been so little impetus towards building something in ADVANCE that would be worthy of national league inclusion?

    You set out a good case, but in doing so invoke federation relationships as a key component of the bid. However in reading it, it would be easy to forget that an existing franchise, Waitakere United, already sits within the northern federation.

    How does your bid relate to the existence of Waitakere United as a national league entity already operational within the federation?

    And on a similar note, how significant is the geographic boundary of the harbour bridge in the modern era, considering a host of players who live in other parts of Auckland play for North Shore northern league clubs, and a number of North Shore domiciled players happily play for Auckland central, east and west clubs?

    If your bid is unsuccessful, how will that affect development plans at the two grounds? Will plans proceed regardless in anticipation of a further bid. Or will they die?

    How much weighting do you believe should be given to on-field records, given neither of the two parent clubs has even cracked northern premier league in the past eight years?

    These questions may seem a bit pointed Steve, but they are not meant to be offensive. As an interested neutral party I am simply trying to make up my own mind on the merits on the various bids on the most informed basis possible.

    1. Hi Bruce,

      Thanks for the questions. I’ll try to address them one by one.

      It’s true that national league participation is an expensive exercise but we would argue the lack of return. Opportunities for players, especially in one of New Zealand’s largest area of football membership and general population, is a worthy cause and it’s why we and NFF are so keen to work together.

      The launch of the NZFC came at a time of relative instability in the national league, as you have documented, and it was understandable for some clubs to be reluctant to enter the then-uncharted territory of a franchise-based model. What has changed is the move away from franchises to a model more closely linked to the winter structure where our entry into the national league would be completing a pathway to the elite game, not just for our founding clubs but also others in Northern Football’s biggest constituent area.

      With 11 years of relative stability in the national league, and NZF investing money in TV coverage, conversations with sponsors to get behind football are somewhat easier. We’ve also seen significant growth in the game in those 11 years. There are simply more people interested.

      The activities of North Shore City’s first team and youth team will be ring-fenced in a separate entity from the activities of North Shore United and Takapuna AFC. We are committed to delivering outcomes for the entire region not just our founding clubs. We will not be using club membership fees to fund North Shore City FC.

      The ASB Premiership has been a closed shop for a decade and other than allowing franchises into the Youth League a few years ago, there has been little indication of opening it up to clubs and realigning it with the winter leagues. This has now changed and please remember this is a journey we are now on to a full promotion / relegation national/regional football league structure.

      The plans for both Taharoto Park and Allen Hill were already underway before New Zealand Football signaled the national league would expand next season, although admittedly, the plans for Taharoto have taken on a new scale with this bid and benefit from Allen Hill receiving the multi-million dollar redevelopment.

      North Shore United and Takapuna have been lobbying the Council for support to grow and upgrade our facilities for years. Its a happy co-incidence that this NZF process starts when we have secured Council support for these upgrades. Please remember these upgrades are to provide playing facilities for each clubs growing membership not for elite teams alone.

      Waitakere United are indeed in the Northern Football Federation region. They also draw support from the Auckland Football Federation. What we are trying to do is bring national league football back to the North Shore. As you say players are mobile but (local) supporters are not. We are trying to get national league football into an area – the North Shore – where there is a significant population of football supporters who do not have a local team to support.

      As a regional entity, our identity will be closely linked to our region that extends to player recruitment. We aim to give the best North Shore talent opportunities at ASB Premiership and Youth League levels and build a fan base around that. At senior level the line or residency and club affiliation can be blurry as you point out but the younger you get the more defined those lines are and a clear pathway to national league football will lessen the need for players to seek opportunities elsewhere as they progress. I think that also covers your question about on field records – as a regional entity, albeit one that draws on the history of two former national league clubs – the strength of the region is more important.

      Hopefully that answers your questions. Thanks for the interest in the various bids.

      Regards,
      Steve

    2. Actually what comes out of all of the cases for the various new clubs to enter the ASB National League is that none of them, other than Eastern Suburbs, can really afford to participate in the league.

  2. Hi Steve, please tell us that ALL North Shore Clubs have been invited to be involved in this fantastic opportunity.

    Regards,

    Barry

    1. Hi Barry,

      My reply to Bruce probably covers this but I’ll just add that this whole process has been run in six weeks so our opportunity to be as inclusive as we’d like with respect to other clubs has been limited by this timeframe. If (or when) our proposal is successful – announcement is scheduled for next week – we will definitely be talking with other North Shore Clubs.

      Regards,
      Steve

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