This morning’s shock announcement by Abby Erceg of her international retirement speaks for itself really, but I couldn’t let it pass without making one or two observations of my own…
If you haven’t already, please listen to her full interview on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon show.
Abby talks about the financial stresses and difficulties of trying to maintain the lifestyle required to represent one’s country and how this has led her to give the international game away. She is hoping that her decision will draw attention to the poor support our female players get.
Football is an amateur game in New Zealand, for the most part, and New Zealand Football isn’t in the business of paying players. Nonetheless domestic based Football Ferns are expected to live in Auckland, our most expensive city, maintain an intense training schedule and be ready to drop everything whenever called upon to go on tours with the squad. On top of this they have to somehow find an employer who is willing to put up with it all and pay them a living at the same time.
The result of this is players stressed to breaking point and a team that is unable to perform at a level it might otherwise be able to if these outside pressures weren’t present.
This is not a problem that’s unique to football. Lots of other sportspeople in other codes struggle to balance their commitment to their sports with the need to put food on the table.
But what makes football stand out, in my view, is a question of priorities.
Despite the fact that we are constantly told there is no money in the game here, and despite the Ferns losing some financial backing from High Performance Sport New Zealand due to their relatively poor Olympic performance in Rio, New Zealand Football must strike a fairer balance of support for the men’s and women’s games.
For better or worse, HPSNZ allocates funding based on results. Why does NZF not do the same? The All Whites are ranked 111th in the world right now. The Football Ferns are ranked 19th. Why don’t the men’s and women’s international programmes swap budgets? Or, seeing as though the Ferns are 550% better than the All Whites, let’s give them a 550% higher budget!
Never going to happen?
Why shouldn’t it?
And why are clubs and sponsors paying weekly wages to (mostly male) players with no international prospects in the hope of winning NRFL Division whatever when the captain of our women’s national team has to quit because her team is financially struggling to afford to represent our country?
For the umpteenth time – I have no real issues with player payments at club level – but if we can pay some players in the AFF/NFF conference but not our Football Ferns when that’s what they need to meet their international commitments then we just aren’t trying hard enough.
And that’s not just on our national body – it’s on all of us.
Perhaps it’s time for a radical rethink of the way our game is set up…
Categories: Football Ferns
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.