Changes afoot at the Oceania Football Confederation regarding foreign players, changes which have seen New Zealand Football begin the process of bringing their own regulations into line.
As Philip Rollo reports, OFC have cut the number of foreign players allowed in Champions League match-day squads to just 3, with 1 additional Oceania based player permitted.
In response, New Zealand Football have reduced the number of match-day squad numbers to 7, with 1 additional Oceania based player – as opposed to 8 foreign players previously.
That may not seem overly significant, but NZF admit that the changes have been made with the current ISPS Handa Premiership clubs in mind given recruitment has already begun for the 2017/18 season – implying that the number of foreign players will be reduced further for future seasons.
What it does affect is the big prize. No not the ISPS Handa Premiership which, let’s face it, runs second place to the OFC Champions League title/Club World Cup in the mind of the clubs competing in both. Looking at both squads for the Champions League final between Team Wellington and Auckland City last year, neither team met the new requirements.
Team Wellington have seven foreign players in that side. Auckland City have eleven, with question marks hanging over Ryan De Vries’ eligibility.
Now, a fair few of the ACFC boys have been in New Zealand for a long time and should they receive their New Zealand citizenship before the Champions League begins, they will qualify as domestic players.
It will be interesting to see if Team Wellington and Auckland City choose to max out their foreign players during the league season, or decide to blood the Kiwi players earlier on to ensure they’re ready for the OFC Champions League.
At least, as long as New Zealand Football stick to their guns, the advertising of the National League ‘Where All Whites Are Made’ will eventually be more visible in the makeup of matchday squads. On the other hand, right now the Oceania Champions League is promoting the blooding of New Zealand footballing talent in a more effective manner than the domestic competition.