Yesterday the FFA announced that it was revoking the A-League licence of the New Zealand Knights.

The FFA cited the fact that owners, Octagon Sports Limited, had breached their “club participation agreement” with a delightfully named “insolvency event” (is that the fiscal equivalent of a “wardrobe malfunction”?).

The FFA claims that Octagon Sports Limited is $800,000 in the hole and has no way of servicing the debt. While other A-League clubs have also run up sizeable debts, New Zealand seemed to have no way to trade out of its mess.

New Zealand Knights claimed yesterday that the FFA had withheld from the club money from its broadcasting agreement with Fox Sports. It claims those funds were enough to help it meet its commitments. Sadly, their problems run much deeper than that.

The Kiwi club has been an abject failure from the outset. Heading into this weekend’s clash with Melbourne Victory at Olympic Park it had won only three of its 37 matches in the A-League.

With a team predominantly made up of British journeymen, Australian fringe players and the odd local it was a rag-tag squad that held no appeal to football fans in NZ.

They attract bigger crowds at Wallabies appreciation society meetings in Auckland than the Knights ever have. It was always a contentious issue that the Knights were granted the licence at all.

With a number of established NSL clubs clamouring for admission to the league they were furious that one of the franchises went to New Zealand.

This was exacerbated by the Australian push to join the Asian Confederation. With New Zealand now boss cocky in Oceania the Knights were never welcome in the Asian Champions League. They were always living in a football twilight zone.

While the FFA has guaranteed their participation in the remaining fixtures, the Knights now carry the stench of a condemned club. Expect some cricket scores.

More worryingly for the FFA this carries another more familiar stench – that of the lunacy and failures of the dying days of the NSL. Northern Spirit anyone?

Nobody wants to get back down that path. There’s been some obvious positives for the FFA over the past couple of weeks, but it deals with the demise of the New Zealand Knights will tell us a lot about just how “new” football in this country really is.

Peter Fray

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