Soccer: Hill's ideas backed but calls for more time

By Anendra Singh


In a nutshell, key Hawke's Bay soccer clubs believe Graeme Hill's proposal has some merit, if not the gospel according to the beautiful game.

The other overwhelming response is the need for someone, preferably the region's governing body, Central Football, to initiate a forum to discuss what aspects of the proposal are worth embracing to revamp the existing structure of competitions at the top level.

While Central Football rejected the proposal this season, all the clubs Hawke's Bay Today contacted - Napier City Rovers, Taradale, Havelock North, Napier Marist and Port Hill - feel the time Hill allocated for them to respond was unreasonable.

"He came up with the idea and wanted us to say in five to six weeks "yes" or "no" so that's not the way things should be done," Havelock North president David Lothian said last night.

"It's not just about fostering soccer but fostering soccer for Havelock North players, too," Lothian said, adding the Hill proposal wasn't "stupid because it has a lot of merit".

Marist chairman Gerard Cook said when they received the email on the proposal in November last year asking for feedback, the club's committee had raised a couple of questions pertaining to the effects of prize money and player defections before presenting the options to their members.

"We gave the questions to Graeme Hill and did not get a response," Cook said, adding the proposal should be handed to clubs now and then re-presented with feedback at the end of this season meeting.

Rovers chairman Russell Booth said it seemed people were trying to do the right things but in different ways.

"Who'll lead that? It's about developing the game as a whole and what's good for Hawke's Bay and the game, not just, say, the Rovers," Booth said, seeing merit in Hill's proposal in having the schools and the clubs find common ground especially with what will happen with players between the ages of 16 to 19.

Taradale president Graham Healey said while the club didn't see any benefits in a proposal that would prevent their players dropping from the Federation League to the two-tier Bay premiership/championship competitions, it did see merit in Hill's proposal in stimulating some form of discussion to revamp the structure.

"It didn't work for us because there were no specifics on what will happen to from there [premiership and championship] down," Healey said, fearing their inability to move players from the Fed League to premiership would also trigger an exodus of players to other clubs, amid other concerns.

Port Hill official Tim Claudatos said the fundamental question every club needed to ask was: "Is it good for football and players?

"That's where the the debate lies," Claudatos said, adding Hill's structure could also entice teams from Taupo and Palmerston North to boost the quality of play.

In his submission on the English Premiership League (EPL) format, Hill primarily suggested the Bay should adopt promotion/relegation competitions - HB Premiership League and HB Championship League.

Below that will be men's specific-purpose club leagues, devoid of the no promotion/relegation concept - reserve grade, over-35s, youth development and two social grades.

Hypothetically speaking, Hill champions a six-team premiership and an eight-team championship competitions at the elite level but clubs can only have one team in either of the two leagues.

ComputerCare Pacific Premiership costs teams about $2500 in entry fees.

In the proposed championship, more clubs could be added without relegation. The premiership could also grow to eight or 10 teams as organisers could tweak the relegation process.

The EPL concept, Hill said, would beckon the best players, administrators, sponsors and fans.

Central Football CEO John McGifford said last night that from the initial proposal in 2011, when he took over from predecessor Bob Patterson, everyone agreed it had merit but it needed the clubs' consideration and support. That the proposal didn't get much traction at successive meetings was perhaps "a criticism of all concerned that it wasn't that actively followed up", McGifford said. "We do listen and sometimes we do things that not everyone likes but there's an absolute process.

"It certainly didn't come down a strike of Phil Holt's pen," he said after Hill criticised Central Football eastern operations manager Holt for rejecting his proposal.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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