Falcons and NBF fail to reach deal

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The group behind the champion Nelson Marlborough Falcons will continue to run the football team this season, after a deal to partially hand over control couldn’t be reached with Nelson Bays Football.

Top of the South Football [TSF] hold the licence for the Falcons in the National Youth League and last year the team won the competition. But the franchise was without a major sponsor throughout its championship-winning season and it did battle to pay the $55,000 needed to compete. The final bill was only settled in March, several months after it was due.

In the off-season, TSF offered the licence to several clubs in the region, and then-chairman Aldo Miccio said at the time that the current model was “unsustainable”.

TSF then approached Nelson Bays Football – which governs the sport in the region – with a proposal to jointly run the team in the final season of their licence. Nelson Bays Football sent a counter-proposal to cut TSF out of the equation and run it themselves and set a deadline for a decision by the end of June.

Acting TSF chairman Francis Miccio says they couldn’t meet that deadline because they were already in talks with potential sponsors so NBF decided to withdraw its counter offer. “It’s great that they gave us a deadline, but we need until the end of the month and we are the ones with the licence.”

NBF chairman John Armstrong says it made the offer because TSF advised them that it was struggling to meet its financial and other obligations and, if the licence lapsed, there would be no Falcons team in the youth league this year.

“The Falcons are the current national champions and NBF felt it would be a great shame if the licence lapsed, putting an end, for this year at least, to the opportunity for our area’s talented youth to compete at this level,” NBF chairperson John Armstrong said.

He says NBF did receive a reply to their counter-offer saying that steps are being taken to prepare for the season, including appointing a coach and arranging sponsors but it didn’t directly address the offer of taking over the licence.

“NBF is pleased that TSF has decided to continue to run the franchise for 2015. It would have been a challenge for us to pick it up that this late stage, and our fear that the licence may lapse has been dispelled,” says John.

Francis says he wanted to work with NBF because it would be a good look if they could work together with the licences due to expire and the end of the 2015/2016 season.

“We put a proposal to them in May and we thought it was in Nelson’s best interests. Come the end of this season, the licence ends and no one really knows what’s going to happen [with the national football league] beyond 2016.”

He says coach Mark Johnston is hosting an open day this Sunday and new board members will be appointed to the TSF board later this month.

On the question of paying the $23,000 entry fee if no major sponsor can be found, Francis says he’s confident it won’t be a problem. “We have to be confident about it, we’re national champions.”