The Francis Solution

The whole Gary Francis thing clearly isn’t working out. Oh I know many will say, “Give it time. He hasn’t even got started. You can’t write him off yet.” The patience of those that ask for more time is truly commendable. But we already know enough to understand it is not going to work. For example, we know the arrogant selection process is continuing unchecked. We know two coaching geriatrics have been brought in to help lead us to the Francis’ promised land. We know the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) centralised training group is being retained. And we have already witnessed the contempt SNZ continues to show for New Zealand’s coaching talent.

There is way too much of the same old, same old for the Francis Plan to work. It took three hours from the moment the Titanic hit the iceberg for it to sink below the Atlantic sea. However, marine engineers knew the ship was doomed immediately they were told that five of the sixteen watertight compartments had been breached. The ship could survive four flooded sections but not five. Well, the Francis Plan has the same problem. The residual damage is terminal. The Plan is doomed. Its fate is sealed. It is simply taking a little time to sink.

So, what to do now is the question?

Finding something else for Francis to do seems to be a priority. He is not the first person to be dragged into SNZ and fail to effect reform. And I doubt he will be the last. Like many others he set out with high hopes only to find that the establishment has changed him. The extent to which Francis was prepared to conform was brought into stark focus by the decision to bring back Brown and Bone. It seems to me that decision had no substance apart from being a pathetic attempt to get positive reviews from Bone on television.

Hope for the future of Gary Francis does not lie in the world of swimming. In my view his performance in this six months has been so poor that there is no place for him in this sport. So what else could he do? Then it occurred to me.

Gary Francis is a huge fan of football. I understand he was a semi-professional and played in the English League. I’m not sure of the team or the Division but any representation in that league is a badge of merit. Clearly Gary Francis knows a thing or two about football. Combine that knowledge with an important resignation that occurred in New Zealand Football this week and perhaps we have a solution to the Francis’ dilemma.

Because, this week Andy Martin, the CEO of New Zealand Football, resigned. Here is how that event was reported on the Stuff website.

Andy Martin’s reign at New Zealand Football was farcical until the very end.

The man unaffectionately nicknamed Andy Martian by those in the New Zealand football community once again showed he lives in an alternative reality when making the announcement he was “retiring” from his role as chief executive.

The carefully-worded statement, written by an independent public relations firm, said Martin was hanging up his boots to spend more time with his family and to follow his “beloved” Liverpool “more intently”.

But people shouldn’t let the almost comical ending distract them from two more pertinent issues: Why has Martin fallen on his sword now? And where to next for NZF?

That first question has a lot to do with the impending appointment of an independent investigator to review the Football Ferns environment after 13 players wrote formal letters of complaint about their coach, Andreas Heraf.

Last week, Stuff reported the “toxic culture” which had developed under Martin’s leadership. There was a real sense Martin has jumped before the review would push him out.

But that shouldn’t allow him to ride off into the sunset free of a full and thorough examination of his tenure.

Football fans can enjoy the relief of the moment for now, but the focus must quickly switch to where to from here?

Firstly, Ferns coach and NZF technical director Andreas Heraf must resign, or “retire”. His players have rebelled and the man who hired him has quit. Untenable doesn’t even cover that situation.

The rest of the coaches Heraf has hired are in a tricky spot too. His Ferns assistant Gareth Turnbull will be lucky to survive the review, while All Whites coach – and friend of Heraf – Fritz Schmid is in an awkward spot.

High performance manager Dwayne Woolliams has been a loyal Martin supporter at NZF head office and should probably head for the exit as well.

Yes, it’s good that Martin has left, but only if his position is filled by someone who has the genuine passion and knowledge to drive the game forward.

Now come on, tell me that doesn’t sound tailor-made for someone of Francis’ experience and skills. The current situation is “farcical”. Francis knows all about that. The previous CEO lives in an “alternative reality”. Francis has a degree in CEO para-normal. An independent investigation is about to report on a “toxic culture”. Francis must have a bathroom cabinet full of toxic antidotes by now. Staff are being advised to “head for the exit”. Francis is more skilled than a footman at the Savoy at letting people out onto the footpath. And finally they need someone who has “the genuine passion and knowledge to drive the game forward”. Gary’s knowledge of football, I imagine, is well up to the task. He played the game professionally after all. Passion, I’m a bit worried about. Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill and Julius Caesar leadership do not quickly spring to mind when Gary Francis creeps into the room. Still, we might be able to work on that before the interview.

So there’s a challenge for Brucie. Call Peter Miskimmin and tell him that swimming would, reluctantly, like to offer their finest and best in service to a fellow struggling sport, Football New Zealand.

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