Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Football: Martin leaves more questions than answers

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin finally fronted the media today - but there is still more questions than answers over the incidents that have rocked the sport over the last nine months.

Martin has been the subject of widespread criticism, with the Alex Jones (non) transfer saga that latest negative episode for the game to deal with, after Anthony Hudson's damaging public outburst in December and the eligibility scandal that erupted at the Pacific Games.

In isolation any one of those are bad enough, but in combination the pattern reveals something more disturbing. But, flanked by NZF president Deryck Shaw, Martin seemed to downplay the significance of those episodes.

"There is a lot of good stuff going on that is perhaps getting missed by one or two of the minor things that have happened," said Martin. "We need to take it on the chin when there are issues but we need to keep it in context.

"

"We inherited an eligibility situation which we have dealt with. Anthony spoke out about something that wasn't actually real news...[and] he wants more games - well of course he wants more games. [The Jones situation] was a human error. We all make human errors and unfortunately someone hasn't been able to get a button pressed on the day and has tried everything possible to make it happen."

While his view on the eligibility saga is debatable, it was Martin's take on the Jones incident - which saw the English striker return home without playing for the Phoenix after NZF couldn't process the paperwork in time - that was the most illuminating.

According to Martin, the previously cited explanations, which included the resignation of a staff member and a lack of internet access over the Auckland Anniversary weekend, were not relevant factors in the botch up.

"This wasn't about holidays and people leaving and internet access," said Martin. "The fact is we had enough time to do it on the day and couldn't do it on the day. The transfer instructions came through on the weekend and on the Tuesday after the Auckland Anniversary day the right person did the right things and tried to get it through the system. That's where it fell over. It wasn't anything to do with him not being available...the issue was he couldn't physically get it through."

Martin also expressed frustration that Fifa were unable to grant an exemption to their strict global deadline, despite no obvious issues with the loan deal between Birmingham City and the Phoenix.

"There was an urgency to try to do it on the Tuesday morning," said Martin. "There were late night calls into Zurich to try and get it sorted and precedent stopped it from happening. In a commercial environment [the] common sense, right thing was [that] everyone was in agreement and it should have gone through. To be penalized because someone couldn't press a button in the right way on the right day was tough...it's difficult to accept."

However, it's not a surprise. Fifa have to stick to hard and fast rules and deadlines, simply because of the global nature of the game. They are dealing with more than 200 countries, so precedents can be dangerous.

Both Martin and Shaw were positive about the future, citing participation numbers that are through the roof, success at age group World Cups, more coaches in the pipeline and a new television platform for the sport.

"[There are] ill-informed critics that make things up that hurt the game...the game is in very good health, said Martin. "[Mistakes] shouldn't happen but you are building something and it is like turning a big tanker. There is going to be bumps in the road and people have got to see the bigger picture."

Andy Martin says...

"To be penalised because someone couldn't press a button in the right way on the right day was tough. It's difficult to accept" - On Fifa's refusal to grant an exemption after NZF missed the transfer deadline for Alex Jones.

"You wouldn't normally have the CEO come out and talk on every single operational matter in a business." - On why he refused to comment in the aftermath of the Jones issue.

"There is going to be bumps in the road - and there will be more - because you are building something and you are not going to change it overnight." - On effecting change at NZF.

- NZ Herald

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