Soccer: All Whites close to game deal with China

By Michael Brown

Tri-series with Australia under consideration as NZ looks beyond Oceania.

Ricki Herbert's side will take on Tahiti in World Cup qualifiers in Christchurch. Photo / David Rowland
Ricki Herbert's side will take on Tahiti in World Cup qualifiers in Christchurch. Photo / David Rowland

The All Whites are close to securing a game against China in Shanghai in November and talks have also begun about playing a tri-series also involving Australia.

Ricki Herbert's side will take on Tahiti in World Cup qualifiers in Christchurch on October 12 and Papeete on October 16 but want to play again before their final two qualifiers against Oceania opposition next March.

There is an international window on November 14 and New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh said they hope to confirm early next month a deal to play China in Shanghai.

It would be the second game between the two sides in two years - they drew 1-1 in Wuhan in March last year - and both countries hope to play each other more often. Last year's game was the first between the men's sides in more than a decade.

"We are talking a lot with Australia as well to see how we can play more games with them as well as China," McKavanagh said. "We are even looking at triangulated tournaments."

Finding regular and worthy opposition for the All Whites outside of Oceania sides has always been a difficult balancing act. Aside from considerations about the quality of opposition, NZF constantly thinks about the financial implications.

It costs about $200,000 to assemble the team each time and one of the things NZF is still working through with China is costs. The host nation typically picks up internal costs in return for the gate while the visitors get a match fee which, in New Zealand's case, can be anywhere between US$50,000 and US$200,000.

"We are looking at some different opportunities around this game," McKavanagh said. "We have to work hard to break even. We want to get to the point that when the All Whites play, they are cost neutral in the first instance and they actually bring in revenue to the organisation. The Socceroos can bring in, depending what year it is, A$15 million to A$25 million."

Those sorts of numbers are unrealistic for NZF, which still has memories of needing a bank loan to stave off bankruptcy. It's also difficult because of the level of support the team receive when they play here.

Last week's World Cup playoff with the Solomon Islands in North Harbour attracted fewer than 8000 fans, which was less than half what NZF needed to break even. McKavanagh's vision is to have a significant number of fans turn out every time the All Whites play, regardless of opposition, in the way they do for other codes in this country.

"It's easy to say and hard to do but that's part of our responsibility to build that love of football into people's mindset," he said.

"It's fantastic everyone got in behind the All Whites in 2010, but we need to convert more of those people to get in behind the All Whites every day."

A long-term relationship with China will help, particularly with a growing Chinese population in this country. So will fielding the best side possible every time, and Herbert is expected to do that against China in November.

The All Whites don't play often together and, assuming they get through the Oceania qualifiers and progress to take on the fourth-best team from Concacaf (North and Central America), they need to take advantage of every window.

There is another one on February 6, and NZF is hopeful of filling that one, too.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 29 Aug 2014 15:21:20 Processing Time: 230ms