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Tauranga City United 2, Forrest Hill Milford 3
Links Avenue, Mount Maunganui, July 24 2016

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I am really torn about this.

I want to write about my trip over the Kaimai Hills to Tauranga City United and Links Avenue. I want to write about the wonderful hospitality that they afforded me there. I want to write about how they invited me into their ‘Koru Lounge’ – a tiny little kitchen area for VIP guests with a beer fridge, chip butties and great yarns with ex-players!

I want to write about how, while I was there, my thoughts kept turning to Dave Cook and wondering if his ghost was around here somewhere… Maybe in that Koru Lounge having a yarn with some other Mount Maunganui stalwarts of the past…

I want to write about this exciting, thrill a minute football game that I was treated to! One in which the visitors came back from a Jerahl Hughes goal down to lead 2-1 at the break thanks to a wind assisted Chris Bale free kick from close to half way that went straight in, and a Ben Roberts goal that nutmegged the keeper. I want to write about the disallowed equaliser before the break, I want to write about Ryan De Vries’s conter attacking goal that looked to have sealed his side’s victory with less than ten minutes left, and I want to write about Logan Crawford’s injury time goal that breifly gave the home side a whif of a draw but was ultimately too little too late.

But, as I said at the start, I’m torn.

TCU’s opponents today were Forrest Hill Milford – entirely by accident. I promise I didn’t drive all the way to the Bay of Plenty just to give myself a licence to rant about FHM, even though that is the sort of thing I would do… I was in Tauranga on family business on Sunday and had long planned to hop across the harbour while I was there to take in this game.

I’m torn because last week a Facebook friend of mine shared a page from the fundraising website ‘Givealittle’. The page’s purpose is to raise money to send the Forrest Hill Milford women’s first team to Christchurch to compete in the semi-final of New Zealand’s premier women’s cup competition because “unfortunately our club does not have the funds to pay…”

It’s the almost universal view of the Auckland football community that Forrest Hill Milford pays their men’s first team players. Nobody can prove it of course, because this is how club sport (not just football) works in this country. It’s strictly amateur, but clubs get around this by, amongst other things, ‘employing’ players in other capacities or getting sponsors to pay them directly. So when you ask them “do you pay your players” they will always say “no, it is THEY who pay US subs not the other way around!” For some clubs this might be true, for others it definitely isn’t.

I’ve said on this blog before that I don’t have a particular problem with player payments, and I genuinely don’t. Where my problem lies is when I was told a few weeks ago, admittedly second hand but it wasn’t the paperboy I can assure you, that one FHM men’s first team player is being paid $1,000 per game. The thought of male players at the club being paid up to $1,000 a week to play while the women’s first team are being told they have to raise the money themselves to fly to a national cup semi-final makes my blood boil to say the least.

And I strongly suspect it makes the blood of most, if not all, of those involved in the FHM women’s first team rise to a fairly high temperature as well.

It’s a very bad look for the club.

The problem is though, that I can’t really write about any of this either!

Because the competition is amateur and because player payments are all under the table, this is all innuendo and hearsay. Nobody from FHM (or any other club for that matter) will ever admit that they pay players. And on the flip side of the coin, even if a club official tells me and everyone reading this that they categorically don’t do it – I won’t believe them.

In my perfect world, the rules would be changed to make payer payments legal. That way we could get this entire issue out in the open and talk about the trade-offs with facts at our disposal instead of rumours.

In the meantime, I encourage readers to click on the link below and donate. And if any men’s first team players from FHM or anywhere else want to contribute some of their football income, that would be great too…

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier NZ Northern Women's Premier

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

9 replies

  1. Great article Enzo, and I hope it raises awareness of this issue.

    I for one don’t hope player payments is made “legal” and I suspect changing NRFL (and it’s equivalents in the rest of NZ) to a semi pro league would not be easy.

    We need NZF to crack down on this and audit a few clubs books and make it known club members money should be spent on better things than a few players. If NZF are not going to do anything then people need to get on the board at your club and make the change from within.

    Making it legal in my mind would make the league much worse than it is now…

  2. Interesting article. I don’t believe there is any real solution. If clubs open their books it is very easy to hide payments. Changing them to semi-pro will not stop the problem. In my opinion player payments will always be around and that’s OK. I believe that no winter league player should be paid over $200 per week but as I have already said there is no way of policing it so we can just discuss.
    As for FHM ladies team having a give-a-little page running when these sorts of payments are going around, should make the club committee hang its collective heads in shame. Really disappointing to hear. They must also have very very short memories. A sad story to hear.

  3. Having been involved in the administration of football I don’t have any problems with players being paid and don’t really view it as a choice between paying players and funding other activities. I tend to believe that clubs will raise money to meet particular costs and if those costs are not there then they don’t raise the money. What I have a problem with in this case is that the womens team appear to have been asked to raise this money themselves – I doubt that the mens side would have been asked to do so ?
    The Elephant in the room is the costs (unbudgeted and therefore difficult to fund at short notice) of participating in the later rounds of the national knockout cups. I recall Caversham almost going to the wall after a couple of expensive away trips and I think they didn’t enter the Chatham Cup for a few years after that whilst they recovered.. This year Nelson Suburbs didn’t enter the Chatham Cup for that reason.
    I don’t know the answer but don’t think it’s as simple as what some people may think.

    1. Great reply Graham. I too am involved in club admin and I agree with most of your points. FHM are in an unusual situation of having both mens and womens teams reaching cup semis. A Chatham Cup final is a big deal for any club, gets more media attention and looks good on the club honours board. Tough on the women who I am sure are just as committed and are dreaming of cup advancement too. The men have got an easier home ground draw and it is not a good look, although you need to be a club insider to know the full story. Assembling a newly promoted premier mens team is expensive and ambitious clubs will nearly always take short cuts to achieve and stay in the top league [my club is no exception]. This is a sad reality of amatuer football and shows that even clubs from well to do areas of major cities struggle to meet all of their commitments. The respective knockout cups are the pinnacle of club football. NZF need to be more proactive and investigate a travel sponsor, as it is important that all premier club teams are involved for the ongoing prestige of the cups.

  4. TBH it is fairly disgusting that the women need to do this and they shouldn’t full stop. Strong clubs should be budgeting for the potential that they may have an away trip like this. Power of positive thinking! FHM hasn’t needed to travel in previous years but have hosted a home semi for a far flung club. The likes of Cashmere/Coastal Spirit etc may budget for them? Who knows? They always seem to do well. Would be good to get some input. Auckland based clubs may not budget as due to the strength of the competition up here there is always the hope that they may not need to travel.

    NZF should help by arranging bookings earlier in the season – book them early enough and the price is lower too. Surely NZF are big enough that they can cancel bookings if they are not necessary without incurring costs? They could then on charge the airfares to the clubs? Clubs will not be able to grant fund for this sort of thing – too short notice, funders won’t give money on a maybe, and you can’t retrospectively ask for grants either. NZF have known since the beginning of the season what their dates were going to be – this is a massive cost for any club to have to fly 15-20 people down for the day at short notice. Costs too much to stay overnight…. What if the flights are all booked as well? Only half the team can fly? Maybe they should be trying to get AirNZ to sponsor them? ASB could contribute as major sponsor? What does it cost in other codes?

    Player payments is a dirty topic and money always causes issues. Look at what has happened with rugby league this year. Some clubs apparently don’t pay anything, some clubs offer surprisingly large amounts or finance other things. The rich clubs will always get richer and those clubs that don’t have huge reserves will end up struggling more and more. May end up with some clubs folding as players become more demanding. And yes – it is the players demanding. If they don’t get what they want there is always another club elsewhere that will. Whatever happened to player loyalty?

    Would the men have to pay? Would like to think they would. However, women footballers, like most things with a female focus are always treated as lower priority. Look at the US Women’s football team.

    1. Well said Queenie. A well thought out and thorough assessment of the situation on amatuer and womens football in general. I too feel NZF should do much more to offset travel costs. The FHM situation is common and will continue to blight our game. NZ football does not attract big gates or large tv revenue to fund travel, so a solution is needed urgently. The respective cups are the best advertisement for domestic football and give all involved a taste of the big time. Football has huge potential here and doesn’t need these handicaps.

  5. Great article. Fully agree teferring to player payments esp where the women miss out totally. Great game. Tauranga lads were on fire but windy conditions seemed to win on the day. Feel the game would hav been a draw at least but for the disallowed goal and the way too late changes in the dying moments of the game. Mind u the coaches didnt seem to hav an interest in the game from what i saw. Too busy with heads in notesbooks/puzzlles or whatever. It took the wind taking the dugout off over them to bring their attention back to the game in hand ! Once subs were made a goal scored almost imediately. Raymond Howe can play in any position as probably most players can. Break the mould and see what happens! I hav faith in the Tauranga city lads and feel their passion nd spirit for the fame even if others in the club dont. It was this fight nd passion that got them in the Premier div in the first place. Keep it up boys! Am with you through thick nd thin!!

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