Auckland United 1, Nelson Marlborough Falcons 1
Centre Park, Auckland, December 13 2015
As you are no doubt aware, for one because this blog has been all over it like a rash in the last few days, New Zealand Football are soon to announce two shiny new ASB Premiership franchises. The decision is due on Wednesday. The contenders for the two places (not counting clubs looking to switch with existing franchises) are Eastern Suburbs, North Shore City, Heartland Wairarapa, Western Suburbs, Onehunga Sports and the two organisations participating in this encounter – Auckland United and Tasman United (Nelson Marlborough). Tasman is seen by most as hot favourites for one of the places. Auckland United seems to be something of an underdog, but nobody really knows.
As alluded to above, I have been running guest posts for the last six days – one from each of the bidding entities that has agreed to participate. What have we learned? I would say a great deal. Who knew, before reading these posts, what the key rationale was for each of these bids? I certainly didn’t. And I strongly believe that having this information out in the open is to everyone’s benefit. Whatever decision New Zealand Football makes this week, we may not agree with it but at least we will have some understanding of what’s behind it.
What I have found most interesting is that each bid that has participated in this has a totally different key strength. For Eastern Suburbs it appears to be the financial ability to run what everyone knows is an expensive business. For North Shore it’s their location in a strong football area – one of the strongest, if not the strongest. For Onehunga it’s player pathways and the nurturing of talent that will stand us all in good stead in the future. For Hamilton Wanderers it’s their readiness to get stuck into this in a province where it has been a real struggle for a long time. For Auckland United it’s growing the game into new constituencies. And for Tasman it’s serving an important region whose talent is drifting away through lack of opportunities.
I wouldn’t want to be the one making this decision. Ok, that’s a bare faced lie. I’d love to be the one making this decision! What it boils down to is a simple question: What’s most important? Financial stability, a strong support base, player pathways, growing the game or serving the provinces?
You can only choose two.
I know which two I would choose.
This game I watched today could be viewed as a grudge match between two rivals for existence beyond this season. I really hope it wasn’t. I really hope it is a peek into the future of a permanent fixture in the football calendar. Because despite them both being franchises in the face of a move towards clubs, I think they both have a huge amount to offer if they get their respective modi operandi right. And sure, that’s a big if, neither of these visions are easily fulfilled. But it’s definitely worth a shot I reckon!
But you don’t have to listen to an old bleeding heart pinko commie liberal like me. Go and read each club’s case and decide for yourself! I’d be interested to hear what YOU think.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.