Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Football: Martin kicks for touch instead of shooting straight

Andy Martin. Photo / Getty Images
Andy Martin. Photo / Getty Images

Until last Wednesday, I was prepared to give New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin the benefit of the doubt.

I had been prepared to believe Martin had learned from his, and his organisation's, mistakes over the past 12 months and was going to emerge a better administrator from it. Now I'm not so sure.

Martin finally faced the media last week, almost one month after the inexplicable Alex Jones (non) transfer saga.

NZF president Deryck Shaw was also in attendance to discuss the recent Fifa congress but, understandingly, most questions were directed at Martin.

And that was where it got a little bit weird. Martin downplayed the incidents of the past 12 months to an extreme degree.

The eligibility saga was "inherited", he said, and the Jones fiasco was "human error".

"We all make human errors," he opined.

Really? It felt disrespectful, not just of the media's intelligence, but also of the knowledge and passion of the football community here.

It felt like Martin was painting the eligibility issues, which culminated in New Zealand's expulsion from the Pacific Games and absence from the Olympic Games, as the administrative equivalent of a leaky home that his team has since repaired.

Sure, there were some eligibility cases that pre-dated Martin's tenure, but Martin had been in the job almost 18 months when the Deklan Wynne episode exploded in Papua New Guinea. That's enough time to get the house in order. And to exacerbate matters, the damaged relationship with OFC meant there was no chance the confederation would have adopted a lenient approach.

Martin also took little responsibility for the Jones incident, saying they "tried to do the right thing" but "couldn't get it through the system" and "someone couldn't get a button pushed". He was frustrated Fifa wouldn't grant an exemption, as that would have been the "common sense" thing to do in the business world.

That's a strange response, considering the implications. What about: "We left it way too late, we messed up, and we are incredibly sorry for what has happened. There are no excuses."

Martin was disingenuous when he claimed transfer complications happen all the time. Sure, the deadline is missed in Europe sometimes when signings are completed minutes before deadline. But I'd be willing to wager that nowhere - not Bolivia, Beirut or Bangkok - has a transfer not been able to be processed by a national body with three or four days' notice.

Martin expressed frustration about the ongoing focus on some "minor issues", with all the positive stories going on. But they are not minor. They're massive.

There is a common thread through all the incidents that have plagued NZF over the past 12 months: inadequate planning and organisation.

The Deklan Wynne saga could have been averted with some faxes and phone calls to Fifa before the event (like Australia had done, in applying for more than 20 exemptions since 2008). Instead, it was all left too late.

The lack of All Whites games is harder to criticise, as they are notoriously difficult to arrange, but it feels like planning could be done much further out.

And the fact Martin and his team left the Jones paperwork until two or three hours before the deadline - and Martin was comfortable with that - doesn't reflect well on the culture of NZF.

I have little doubt now. Martin appears out of his depth.

- Herald on Sunday

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