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View from the back of the net!

Whilst players, supporters and administrators from most winter clubs have been enjoying a nice relaxing summer break, it seems that all hell has been breaking loose in South Auckland. Franklin United, which is barely a year into its existence, has suffered an acrimonious divorce as of one of its marriage partners – Waiuku AFC – has split the scene.

It was Waiuku’s place in NRFL Division 1 that Franklin took up in the Northern League last year, but in 2017 the senior men’s team from that club will play in the AFF Championship, after their application to join the Conference was stymied by the federation deciding to leave the Northern league feeder competition in its current eleven team format.

Meanwhile, the place they earned in Division One will be filled by a Franklin United ‘cluster’ now made up of the other foundation member, Pukekohe AFC, along with their new partners Drury United – neither of whom have earned promotion to that level.

This has got the backs up of some of the other clubs in the league, some of whom are understood to be considering a joint appeal to AFF, asking that Franklin be removed from the NRFL.  This would be a move that at least one Franklin loyalist that I spoke to insists is rooted in bitterness because these same Auckland clubs have been skimming off the cream of Franklin youth for years – enticing them out of the area to play.

It seems to me as though the marriage between old rivals Pukekohe and Waiuku may have been doomed from the start. When I visited Massey Park very early in the 2016 season it was clear that there was a lot of discontent around the Waiuku club.

At the centre of the controversy was the number of players from outside the region that had been brought in from other clubs and little secret has been made that they were being financially compensated – although Franklin insists that this was all above board.

This went against the grain for some Waiuku members. The Franklin concept had been sold to them as a pathway for local players yet some of them now see Franklin United as having, in their opinion, drained money out of their club and used it to pay mercenaries.

But, for Franklin’s proponents, the raison d’être of the joint venture was and still is that neither Waiuku nor Pukekohe had enough depth or player numbers to sustain NRFL football on the path they were on. This was never going to change overnight and they continue to believe that Franklin United will be fully sustainable in the near future.

Either way, matters were brought to a head in a mid-season meeting called for Waiuku members and attended by Franklin United club officials to discuss the situation. Grievances were aired, explanations offered, and following this a vote was held by the Waiuku committee with a 9-2 majority resolving to stick with the project until the season’s end, at which point the issue would be revisited upon the yearly review and possible renewal of the arrangement.

Following this, Mr David Johnson (WAFC member) submitted a complaint to AFF alleging that Franklin United have been illegally paying players. He told me that AFF have established an independent  three person judiciary panel that has been conducting fairly intense hearings on the allegations he has raised.

At the end of the season, as resolved at the mid-year review, Waiuku’s members met again to revisit their participation in the Franklin United concept.  A petition was presented and the committee’s final vote to pull out was unanimous. According to Mr Johnson the committee’s view was, having participated in the AFF judiciary hearings, the club didn’t want to be seen as guilty by association and instead chose to stay focused on the Waiuku community and its sporting needs.

Franklin United were advised via e-mail of the decision, which forced their board to find a new partner to keep the concept afloat.  It’s understood that the AFF board met, ratified the new cluster and confirmed Franklin’s NRFL place in two November board meetings.

The outcome of David Johnson’s complaint is still pending.

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1

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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.

12 replies

  1. So the future of Franklin for 2017’s NRFL campaign is…….?

    Is there any reason the Franklin representative didn’t want to be named? Equally what the hell happened to lead to the massive u-turn from Waiuku after the mid-year review…..?

    As a loyal Waiuku member, I am surprised / scared the committee have invested so heavily in one (non-committee) members opinion.

    Very concerning to say the least. No wonder there are few players left wearing blue.

    Pains me to say it but back to the rugby club I go!

    1. In terms of not naming names… As you will probably have gathered, the whole thing is quite acrimonious and personal for a lot of people so I have tried not to feed that…

  2. This turned into more of a rant than a comment. Oops.

    This is a sad story. Unfortunately it is one that is repeated, albeit in slightly different form, issues, complaints and agendas up and down the country. And not just in football either, but in my opinion it is symptomatic of the aspects of Kiwi mentality that in a very real sense holds football back nationally.

    In all clubs bigger than about 7 people, factions form.

    It happens in Golf clubs, bowls clubs, chess clubs – all clubs. Certain people are leaders and others are followers. Once you get more than one strong personality, each of whom are naturally inclined to lead, the tinderbox is set. All it then takes is an issue to come along that one of the leader types (who is not currently formally in a leadership role) feels strongly about, and the tall-poppy tendency kicks in, and they have to have their say about how the current regime are not doing it right. Usually the first issue is relatively inconsequential, but the resolution leaves one leader typed publicly defeated, and that slight smolders…

    We Kiwis can’t let these things go. And tragically, particularly in NZ football (but this is not uniquely a football thing, it’s ubiquitous in Kiwi clubs) the slighted leader’s pride, and desire to be the big fish in the XYZ Club pond, begins to drive behaviour more than the good of the club does. Sometimes it is not limited to tensions within one club either, but manifests itself in tensions and rivalries between clubs.

    This pattern is at the heart of why football in NZ continues to be the largest participation sport, but cannot achieve critical mass with crowds, media coverage, and financially at the top levels. Football in NZ, in my observation, is very significantly a ‘my patch-centric’ culture.

    People openly say they won’t go to Phoenix games, All Whites games, Football Ferns games, SS Premiership games, National Youth League games and National Women’s League games because they are not invested, it’s not THEIR club playing, or THEIR players weren’t selected etc.

    When the Football Kingz started playing in the NSL one of the refreshing and notable aspects of the organic growth of Bloc 5 was that people from North Shore, Waitakere, Uni Mount, Manurewa, Papakura and even Hamilton all came together. For once the club loyalties melted away and everyone had a common cause. And there was suddenly (or gradually even) a critical mass of supporters united in a common cause. And crowds of 8,000+. And it was magical.

    I’m not being critical of anyone in the story. I understand that the issues matter, and can’t just be ignored, and that the people involved are almost certainly acting in what they think is their own and their club’s best interest. But when you step back and look at it from a whole of Franklin point of view it can’t be a good result. It has to be a net negative for football in Franklin to have had this experience, and to have inevitably created further slights and bruises amongst people on both sides of the divide.

    It is a sad story, of an opportunity for cohesive development and advancement lost. And the cost will linger for a long, long time. The development, growth and advancement of football in New Zealand is continually hamstrung by episodes like this one. Somehow we need to plan and govern and manage the implementation of our plans more successfully.

    I don’t know the details of the formation of Franklin United well enough. I don’t know who proposed what, and which agendas won out and how the decisions were made. But, using the Franklin United experience as a straw man for a hypothetical example… In setting up an alliance of clubs, if there were disagreements about:

    1. what should be done,
    2. how it should be done, or
    3. who should lead getting it done,

    the long term success of the union is jeopardised if one faction railroads through it’s agenda at the expense of another faction. You need ALL parties to be in full agreement and fully buying into the union. That can be really really hard to do. But getting it wrong sows the seeds for things to unravel later on.

    The volunteers who administrate the clubs that are the lifeblood of football in New Zealand are invaluable assets. However they are often not professional project managers, change facilitators, or trained negotiators. (Some are of course). Big initiatives like this need to be done right, and need these sorts of skill-sets to minimise the chances of those seeds of discontent being sewn. And us as club members can contribute by trying to lift or horizons and genuinely think about the good of the club and the good of the game.

    1. Interesting comment Brandon! While I was writing this I kept thinking about a quote from Dave Cook in Bruce Holloway’s National League Debates about how club alliances never work. You have touched on some of the probable reasons why he might be right…

      1. Your last part of this, is bang on. The venture had the potential to work but certain people thought WAFC could\would not field a team for the 2016 season. This aside, it appears certain people who have been with this club for along time, who have contributed so much, are the ones who think this club owes them something also. This club had always talked about family, friends and a team that punched well above its weight. The clubs biggest failure was to develop its youth, to future proof its existence going forward. At the end of the day the players stood up and decided that they wanted their club back and not be in the shadow of FU. There is nothing wrong with that and if the process had been alot better this whole saga would not have materialised in the way it has

  3. What is mystifying is that Waiuku worked hard to get promoted to Division 1 and Pukekohe joined to form Franklin. Pukekohe circumvented the promotion relegation process and found itself in NRFL Division 1 playing as Franklin United. You would then think that if there is a break up the teams would revert back to their original positions before the merger. Instead the opposite has happened. Teams that have been unsuccessful for years are now playing in Division 1 while the team that rightfully got promoted is now playing in the very low AFF league.

    1. It’s not so mystifying if you understand the AFF/NFF competitions regulations. Places in leagues are allocated to clubs, not teams. If a club relinquishes their place in a league, it reverts back to the Federation to fill. Even if Franklin Utd disbanded, the place in NRFL1 would not be offered to Waiuku AFC or Pukekohe AFC. It would go back in the ‘pool’. Usually the top team in NRFL2 would be promoted but due to a change in the number of teams per division this season, instead Papakura CFC would stay put and not be relegated (which gives them a vested interested in seeing Franklin Utd disbanded).

    2. Interesting view but skewed by the very opinion that “Waiuku players stood up and decided that they wanted their club back”.

      The club continued, so why not just let Franklin get on….?

      Franklin’s introduction took nothing away aside from the NRFL league position as voted by the Committee of which Mr Johnson wasn’t apart of. Both Teams (Wiauku and Franklin) suffered throughout the season from major disruption due to all the off-field drama – when I received my updates on a Saturday, it sounded like Shortland Street script!

      Said league position was also becoming increasingly tough to retain for Waiuku. The standard of football at Massey Park had certainly dropped over the eyars (probably following the promotion). Those that have actually been down to watch Franklin have labelled this a rebranding of sorts, The Waiuku club benefiting from a strategic decision to mitigate the ‘small club’ label that had troubled them (along with the geographical location) for years. Said rebranding was let down only by poor communication (irrespective of who’s at fault – they’re likely a volunteer) and a group of core players (and pockets of supporters) that didn’t commit. That is the problem that occurred year in year out for Waiuku and many other NRFL teams (think Uni, relocation for jobs etc). This is amateur football after all.

      I was at the Ellerslie game (which allowed them to survive) and the ‘vision’ was starting to come together. A Pukekohe Team had finished their game and amalgamated behind the goal cheering the Franklin team on, next to them were supporters that usually would have been a staple at Massey Park doing the very same. Better yet, numerous pockets of youth footballers who had played the morning before at Pukekohe’ s whole of football initiative were watching from the bank (given the Ellerslie keeper a heap of stick 🙂 )There was even some banter from the side-line that when questioned on right backs residence (Noa I believe), the non-Franklin representation was disputed as he lives in Clarkes Beach (only hearsay admittedly and I’m not sure if that’s even in the Franklin catchment but it must be close 🙂 – it is accordingng to google).

      Yes, there were only 3 old Wailuku players on show (McCoy, Chapman and Woolnough) but who really cares?

      Who’s to say the likes of Salesh wouldn’t have made their services available for Waiuku should Franklin not have emerged? It’s all history now. Hopefully AFF give them the all clear, as I for one enjoyed watching them and can see the potential.

      1. I think the Ellerslie keeper quite liked that actually – until the second half when Franklin stormed home to win the game – then I think he was not quite as much of a fan.

  4. You can guarantee that Papakura have a vested interest in seeing Franklin disbanded….they just wont except they’re a former ‘big’ club that no longer belong in Div 1 (or above).

    1. Ironically, at least twice in recent years Papakura have led the charge in wanting to form a similar venture for Youth teams called ‘Counties Utd’ involving Pukekohe & Drury clubs. It is very difficult however to form an equal partnership between clubs as someone always wants to take the lead and it becomes less a partnership and more a take-over where one club creams the best players from the other/s and assumes control over decisions (coaching, selection, etc)… which is why Counties Utd never got off the ground despite a couple of attempts IMO.

      1. From being apart of the Franklin United set up i have heard everything, From my point of view it has been great for me, apart from my first two games, witch were my first two games of senior football and i was a bit shacky however with the support,coaching and experience at Franklin i managed to become top goal scorer and net 2 against forest hill in the Chatham cup. Whenever there is a change like this initially there is always going to be a lot of negativity towards it, but in my opinion this was a change that puts Football in the positive direction, okay somethings were not done the “right” way and things could of been done in a better manner but it is still the right move. Being brought up in a football mad family in Pukekohe/Franklin there has been so much talent move away either for work,uni or the fact that there was no decent team to play for. in the 2016 season everything was rushed and we may of had to play some scrapy football as we were a team that was just put together in a short amount of time compared to other team who had been training intensely since the start of January, but anyone who watched us will know we started to play some good football and get some belief and good performances towards the end of the season. Also being at the preseason training’s for 2017 everything is looking upward and Franklin is here to stay weather you like it or not 🙂

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