Jason Pine is Radio Sport's football commentator

Jason Pine: NZ football continues to be butt of jokes

NZF CEO Andy Martin. Photo / Greg Bowker
NZF CEO Andy Martin. Photo / Greg Bowker

There are no winners in the latest saga involving New Zealand Football.

FIFA's rejection of Alex Jones' transfer from Birmingham City to the Wellington Phoenix because of tardy paperwork was the latest in a string of events to strike the beleaguered national body.

Make no mistake - FIFA have done nothing wrong here. They - rightly - have transfer windows for a reason and would be ill-advised to apply any sort of lenience to well-established and well-known deadlines. Their decision to reject this transfer was correct.

New Zealand Football has undertaken to conduct a review of its processes to find the root cause of their latest failing.

To gain clarity, two glaring questions need answering.

Firstly, how was the staff member in charge of processing transfers allowed to leave NZ Football three days before the transfer window closed?

And secondly, why was the person who then took over responsibility for those transfers allowed to be somewhere without internet access as the transfer deadline approached?

The answers to those questions seem absolutely key to ascertaining what went wrong.

There are a number of parties who have been affected by what has transpired here.

Firstly, I feel for Alex Jones. The young English pro upped sticks and travelled 12,000 miles to link up with the Phoenix with the aims of helping them score some goals and giving himself some regular game time.

He seemed like a good bloke, engaging with fans on Twitter and quickly joining in the training ground banter with his new team-mates.

Now, he has to pack all his things, return his Phoenix kit and board a plane back to the UK, having never crossed the white line for his new club.

Birmingham City are understandably less than impressed, with manager Gary Rowett calling it a "slap in the face". How many other players and clubs in similar situations will now think twice before committing to a move of this sort?

West Bromwich Albion goalkeeping coach and former Phoenix assistant Jonathan Gould - who helped broker the deal to get Jones to Wellington - must be extremely embarrassed. Through absolutely no fault of his own, a deal he helped make happen has been scuppered, leaving him to attempt some sort of explanation to the people whose circles he now moves in.

The Phoenix have also been robbed of an attacking option for their A-League run-in. While Blake Powell eased some of their goal-scoring concerns with his sensational four-goal performance against Western Sydney on Sunday, Jones would have been a handy foil for him. At the very least, he would have given Ernie Merrick another card in his deck.

But the people I feel most sorry for are football folk.

Yet again, we're to be the butt of jokes. We'll have to endure the barbs about how this great sport of ours continues to shoot itself in the foot here in New Zealand.

You know what I'm talking about. It's already started. The little digs on social media and via text messages. The workplace laughter tinged with what almost feels like pity. The all-too-familiar feeling that whenever football in this country looks like it might be making progress, that momentum is halted by high-profile errors.

Nobody in football circles took any delight in the events of yesterday. No-one was revelling in this administrative botch-up. Nobody felt anything other than a grim sense of having been let down.

We deserve better. Our sport deserves better. Football deserves better.

- NZ Herald

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Jason Pine is Radio Sport's football commentator

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