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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The future of the association football code in New Zealand is probably easier to forecast than its beginnings are to define.

It was inevitable that settlers and crews of ships trading to the colony should play some sort of football during leisure hours, but soccer began to be organised as a sport only in the eighties of the last century. A Reverend J. S. Hill has been credited with starting the game in this country. The Northern Association Football Club of Dunedin came into being on 11 April 1888, and this club's claim to be “the oldest association football club in Australia and New Zealand” has always been disputed by North Shore, which dates its foundation to 1886. But a news item in the New Zealand Times of 8 July 1891, date lined Auckland, 7 July, reads: “It is in contemplation to start an Association football club”. It is possible, of course, that this could have referred to discussions which preceded the formation of the Auckland Football Association in 1894.

It is beyond dispute that by 1890 soccer was well enough organised for associations to form in Wellington and Otago and for the New Zealand Football Association to have been established to administer the game on a national basis. On 8 July 1903 three Christchurch clubs formed the Canterbury Football Association, but it is on record that games had been played in the province since 1890.

The press of those days (which included many newspapers no longer in existence–the Mail, Field, Globe, and Umpire are a random few) devoted considerable space to the code's development. It was noted that “the Association game of football seems to be catching on in Auckland”; “Association football, as we notice, has opened in Dunedin … from what we hear more enthusiasm is manifested towards the game than the promoters expected”; “Association football is going ahead in Wellington … the Association game is not nearly so rough as the Rugby, and it also possesses other advantages over the latter.” But a Canterbury journal of the nineties made no bones about it. It was adamant that no matter how strongly entrenched “the Association branch” became, it would never displace rugby in the “affections” of the local population.

This comment promotes speculation as to why, in a country settled mainly by people from Britain, the oval-ball code should have so quickly and decisively established itself as the popular winter sport. The reason may perhaps be found in the fact that persons of influence in the young colony, including school teachers, probably had educational backgrounds of the great public schools in England. Rugby was (and to a lesser extent today still is) the fashionable winter sport. The association game was the opiate of the masses of the unwashed, the cloth-cap and muffler brigade. Though “the quality” played association–Old Etonian Lord Kinnaird, Sir Francis Marindin, and Old Harrovian C. W. Alcock were strong advocates of the round-ball code–the advent of professionalism in Britain put soccer beyond the pale. This did not prevent Alcock spiritedly defending the principle of payment for players: “I object to the argument that it is immoral to work for a living, and I cannot see why men should not, with that object, labour at football as at cricket.” The attitude that it was “immoral to work for a living”, so widely held in the nineteenth century, could have reacted favourably to rugby's cause in early New Zealand.

The journalistic opinion that the association game was “not nearly so rough as Rugby” received a check in September 1891. Thirty-one-year-old Thomas M. Sibbin was killed while playing soccer at Potter's Paddock in Epsom, Auckland. The Herald of 7 September devoted more than half a column to the accident. It reported that “it appears that the players of the Association branch of the game, which has recently been revived here, met at Potter's Ground for a practice, and a good number turned up, including many old Rugby players who, like Mr. Sibbin, had forsaken that style for the presumably milder and less dangerous form of Association football.” It added: “For many years he (Mr Sibbin) was an ardent exponent of Rugby football, and represented the province in 1882 against New South Wales.”

The fatality aroused a storm of protest against football, though nowhere in the indictments can be found any differentiation between rugby and association.


Though the newspapers of the nineties record games played between the provinces, sparse and difficult communications made it necessary to administer soccer on a regional basis. It was quite impossible in nineteenth-century New Zealand to establish a league similar to that which had been formed in England in 1888, with teams from all over the country competing on a home-and-away programme. A journey between Wellington and Auckland in those days assumed the proportions of a major safari and, lacking the revenue available to professional soccer in Britain, New Zealand planned its soccer competitions on a town or district basis.

This system has continued through to the present day, though all kinds of expedients have been used to give the code something of a national character. But, paradoxically, these attempts have resulted in pegging playing standards at an indifferent level. Instead of players of ability being recruited to a small number of first-class teams, their talent has been thinly spread over a vast geographical area and has been dissipated among the too many so-called first-division teams supported in regional leagues.

Today there are 22 associations administering soccer in areas extending from Northland to Southland. More than 20,000 men and boys play the game, which is now being accepted in high and secondary schools where in some instances the code was previously forbidden. New Zealand boasts no fewer than 6,000 schoolboy players and another 7,000-plus in closed grades. The interests of these latter are safeguarded by a junior council which, like the New Zealand Football Association parent body, is represented at provincial as well as national level. The New Zealand Referees' Association, which is represented on the New Zealand Football Association Council, is an elected body which centralises the activities of referees' associations in the provinces.

The present administrative structure is simply a natural growth and expansion of a demand by nineteenth-century soccer clubs wishing to bring to their recreation some patterned format. The New Zealand Football Association is, in effect, the sum total of its member associations, while the New Zealand Football Association Council is an elected working committee which sits in Wellington and acts on behalf of the total membership throughout the country.

Since the days of the Rev. J. S. Hill, C. C. Dacre, and Thomas Sibbin, an army of men (and more than a few women) has laboured to win for soccer a place in New Zealand's winter sun. The code owes a tremendous debt to all these dedicated people who worked without thought of reward. From among them the stature of a few demands identity–men like J. Kershaw, one of the four life members of the New Zealand Football Association, J. Cowie, and Leo Munro, of Auckland, George Cox, of Christchurch, and John Young, of Palmerston North, Alf Williams, Bill Hicks, Bill Arcus, H. H. Rennie, Bert Salmon, Frank Campbell, Frank Sanders, R. Bunt, Jack Cawtheray, Jim Flood, M. G. McInnes, Robin Adair, and B. A. Mabin. Some of them are now dead, but none is forgotten.

Competitions and Trophies

It was on 16 August 1890 that the first interprovincial game in New Zealand was decided. Canterbury entertained Wellington at Christchurch and won 2–0. In the following season a return fixture was played at Newtown Park, Wellington, and a delighted crowd applauded the home team's 1–0 victory. Robert Brown, of Glasgow, in New Zealand on business, saw the game, and at a function that evening said he would present a shield for competition among the provinces. The Brown Shield, first played for in 1892 at Christchurch and won by Wellington, became the symbol of provincial soccer supremacy under tournament rules. Then, in 1908 the basis of competition was changed; the shield was played for on a challenge system. This lasted till 1923 when the New Zealand Football Association was presented with a handsome trophy donated by the Football Association of England. Under various systems of competition the Football Association Trophy took the place of the Brown Shield as the provincial target, while minor associations were given the opportunity of competing for the Brown Shield. Both are still played for, but without marked enthusiasm by associations and without attracting much spectator support.

Another, and much more popular trophy, made its appearance in 1922. In return for hospitality enjoyed, the ship's complement of HMS Chatham presented the New Zealand Football Association with a replica of the famous Football Association Cup. Inevitably, the rules governing competition for it approximated to those of the internationally known original. The Chatham Cup quickly caught public imagination and it remains today the most coveted soccer objective.

From the inauguration of the competition in 1923, any team could enter on a knockout basis. But all the preliminary rounds are determined at local association level. Winning teams then go forward to zone, then island, and, finally, a national elimination. The final has always been played in Wellington. Following the first success of a “minor” association team, Hamilton Technical in 1962, the New Zealand Football Association Conference voted in favour of a limited open draw. This applies only to North Island associations, excluding Wellington. The South Island associations continue to operate the stepdown principle. To some extent this handicaps the giantkilling clubs which for so long in England have made cup ties wonderful revenue earners.

Chatham Cup Results
1923 Seacliff (Otago) 4, YMCA (Wellington) 0.
1924 Harbour Board (Auckland) 3, Seacliff (Otago) 1 (after extra time).
1925 YMCA (Wellington) 3, Seacliff (Otago) 2.
1926 Sunnyside (Canterbury) 4, North Shore (Auckland) 2.
1927 Ponsonby (Auckland) 3, Northern (Otago) 2.
1928 Petone (Wellington) 1, Northern (Otago) 0.
1929 Tramways (Auckland) 4, Seacliff (Otago) 0.
1930 Petone (Wellington) 2, Western (Canterbury) 1.
1931 Tramurewa (Auckland) 5, Nomads (Canterbury) 2 (after extra time).
1932 Marist (Wellington) 5, All Blacks (Buller) 0.
1933 Ponsonby (Auckland) 2, All Blacks (Buller) 0.
1934 Thistle (Auckland) 2, Thistle (Canterbury) 1.
1935 Hospital (Wellington) 3, Western (Canterbury) 1.
1936 Western (Canterbury) 3, Thistle (Auckland) 2.
1937 No competition.
1938 Waterside (Wellington) 4, Mosgiel (Otago) 0.
1939 Waterside (Wellington) 4, Western (Canterbury) 2.
1940 Waterside (Wellington) 6, Mosgiel (Otago) 2.
1941 No competition.
1942 No competition.
1943 No competition.
1944 No competition.
1945 Western (Canterbury) 4, Marist (Wellington) 3 (after extra time).
1946 Marist (Wellington) 2, Technical Old Boys (Canterbury) 1.
1947 Waterside (Wellington) 2, Technical Old Boys (Canterbury) 1.
1948 Technical Old Boys (Canterbury) 2, Waterside (Wellington) 0.
1949 Petone (Wellington) 1. Nortbern (Otago) 0.
1950 Eden (Auckland) 3, Technical Old Boys (Canterbury) 2 (after extra time).
1951 Eastern Suburbs (Auckland) 5, Northern (Otago) 1.
1952 North Shore (Auckland) 1, Western (Canterbury) 1 (joint holders, after extra time).
1953 Eastern Suburbs (Auckland) 4, Northern (Otago) 3.
1954 Onehunga (Auckland) 1, Western (Canterbury) 0.
1955 Western (Canterbury) 6, Eastern Suburbs (Auckland) 2.
1956 Stop Out (Wellington) 4, Shamrock (Canterbury) 1.
1957 Seatoun (Wellington) 3, Technical Old Boys (Canterbury) 1.
1958 Seatoun (Wellington) 7, Christchurch City (Canterbury) 1.
1959 Northern (Otago) 3, North Shore (Auckland) 2.
1960 North Shore (Auckland) 5, Technical Old Boys (Canterbury) 3.
1961 Northern (Otago) 2, North Shore (Auckland) 0.
1962 Technical (Hamilton) 4, Northern (Otago) 1.
1963 North Shore (Auckland) 3, Nomads (Canterbury) 1.
1964 Mount Roskill (Auckland) 3, Technical Old Boys (Dunedin) 1.

At different times other trophies have been donated to soccer. Still in existence and played for spasmodically at more or less national level are the Campbell Rose Bowl, the Flyger Rose Bowl, the Peter Dawson Cup, and the Junior National Cup. But the disadvantage attaching to all of them, with the solitary exception of the Chatham Cup, is that they demand representative teams at higher than club level. So it is found that club sides, battling for local trophies, have their hard-won combinations broken up by selectors charged with fielding a provincial team to play for one or other of the trophies which attracts little public attention. The clubs are sour when they lose games because of the absence of key players; the players themselves are sometimes confused when trying to combine with men they normally play against. Performance suffers and the turnstile revenue, on which the code must depend to a considerable extent, falls away.

Over the years it has been argued by administrators that only provincial fixtures give selectors opportunities of watching candidates for national honours. And it was this opinion which probably led to the interisland game which has been played from time to time since 1920. It seems to have been overlooked that such extreme disruptions of club play do not appear to be necessary in countries rated as the soccer powers of the world. Nor does this seem to have been a successful policy in the light of New Zealand's international record.

International Fixtures

The first venture into the international arena was in 1904, when New South Wales visited this country. The tourists won five of the nine games played. In the following season a New Zealand team travelled across the Tasman and played 11 games in New South Wales, winning six, drawing two, and losing three. Then, in 1922, an Australian team made a visit. This was New Zealand's moment of soccer glory. The local national team won two of three tests and drew the other, while provincial sides beat the Australians on two other occasions. A reciprocal visit to Australia in 1923 was not nearly so successful. New Zealand won only seven of the 16 games played.

In 1924 a Chinese universities team came to New Zealand, but managed to win only four of the 22 games on the itinerary. It was a different story when the Canadians arrived three years later In an itinerary of 23 games only Westland and the local national side beat the visitors, but New Zealand also drew a test. When the Australians returned in 1936 the team was untroubled to win all 12 matches, and the visit in 1937 of an English amateur team also demonstrated the weakness of the local game.

Since then New Zealand has been host to South Africa (1947), Australia (1948), Victoria (1951), South China (1955 and 1957), F. K. Austria (1957), Australia (1958), Costa Rica (1959), Tom Finney's English Eleven (1961), New Caledonia (1962), and West Germany's Karlsruher S.C. (1963). Only against the Chinese tourists and New Caledonia did the home teams enjoy any success, though both the South Island and Auckland Province defeated the Austrians.

Following the visits to New South Wales and Australia in 1905 and 1923, New Zealand made a second tour of the Commonwealth in 1933, winning three times and drawing once in a 13-match itinerary. In a seven-game tour of New Caledonia and Fiji in 1951 New Zealand lost only once-to New Caledonia, 0–2. On the three other occasions when the two teams met, New Zealand won convincingly.

In the following year New Zealand again travelled to Pacific countries. Ten games were played in Fiji and Tahiti. Eight were won and two drawn. The trip to Australia in 1954 gave New Zealand four wins and three draws in 11 games, but visits to New Caledonia (1958) and Tahiti (1959) were made without any loss to New Zealand's prestige.

New Zealand's Record at Home
1904 New South Wales lost 0– 1
drew 3– 3
1922 Australia won 3– 1
drew 1– 1
won 3– 1
1924 Chinese Universities won 2– 1
drew 2– 2
won 5– 3
won 4– 2
1927 Canada drew 2– 2
lost 1– 2
won 1– 0
lost 1– 4
1936 Australia lost 1– 7
lost 0– 10
lost 1– 4
1937 England (amateurs) lost 0–12
lost 0– 6
lost 1–12
1947 South Africa lost 5– 6
lost 0– 6
lost 3– 8
lost 1– 4
1948 Australia lost 0– 6
lost 0– 7
lost 0– 4
lost 1– 8
1951 Victoria won 3– 1
1955 South China drew 1– 1
won 7– 4
lost 3– 5
1957 Hong Kong drew 1– 1
won 2– 1
1957 FK Austria lost 1– 7
lost 1– 7
1959 Saprissa, Costa Rica won 3– 2
1961 England lost 0– 8
lost 1– 6
1962 New Caledonia won 4– 1
won 4– 2
1963 Basle, Switzerland lost 1– 4
1964 Munster, Germany lost 0– 6

Summary: Played 42, won 12, drawn 6, lost 24. Goals for 73, against 179.

New Zealand's Record Overseas
1905 New South Wales won 6– 4
lost 0– 2
drew 1– 1
1923 Australia lost 1– 2
won 3– 2
won 4– 1
1933 Australia lost 2– 4
lost 4– 6
lost 2– 4
1951 New Caledonia lost 0– 2
won 6– 4
won 6– 2
won 3– 1
1951 Fiji won 6– 4
1952 Fiji won 2– 0
won 9– 0
won 5– 2
1952 Tahiti drew 2– 2
won 5– 3
1954 South Australia won 3– 2
Australian Eleven won 3– 1
Victoria lost 1– 2
Australia won 2– 1
New South Wales won 4– 1
Queensland drew 2– 2
Australia lost 1– 4
Australia lost 1– 4
1958 New Caledonia won 2– 1
won 5– 1
won 2– 1
1960 Tahiti won 5– 1
won 2– 1
1964 Hong Kong Combination lost 1– 3
Hong Kong Chinese lost 1– 2
Thailand at Bangkok lost 1– 7
Falcons at Teheran lost 1– 4
Iran at Teheran lost 1– 4
Karlsruher S.C., Germany lost 1– 4
Nuremburg S.C., Germany lost 1– 2
Bellinzona, Switzerland lost 1– 2
Grasshoppers, Switzerland lost 1– 3
An F. A. XI at Northampton lost 0– 4
An F.A. Amateur XI at Dulwich (abandoned after 70 minutes) 1– 4
Nottingham Forest lost 0– 8
Swindon Town lost 1– 5
German-American F.A., New York lost 1– 4
California All-Stars, San Francisco won 5– 2

Summary: Played 47, won 21, drawn 3, lost 22, abandoned 1. Goals for 116, against 128.

Recent Trends

It has long been a submission of a responsible body of soccer opinion in New Zealand that the future of the code in this country lies at the feet of its youth. The New Zealand Football Association director of coaching, the former Chelsea and England player, Ken Armstrong, subscribes to this view. And visits to New Zealand by an Australian schoolboys' team in 1927 and a return visit to Australia by a local boys' side 11 years later indicated that the lads were receptive to wider experience. Armstrong's enthusiam for up-to-date coaching methods has encouraged the formation of coaching associations in many districts and, backed enthusiastically by the junior council, comprehensive coaching projects are in hand to encourage boys' and youth football. The growing popularity of soccer at all levels and in all areas is making the impact of even soccer-skilled immigrants less forceful than it once was. What talent is imported into the country is still too thinly spread to produce higher playing standards in adult age groups. But as the senior players are absorbing the hard-learned lessons taught by the Englishmen, the Austrians, and the West Germans, they are showing more and more willingness to exploit them on the field of play, as well as to pass on the new techniques to junior teams they are nowadays offering to coach.

There is, without any doubt, a “new look” about soccer in New Zealand today. Since the international ban on Australia has been lifted, junior football administrators are hurrying forward plans to exchange youth-team visits. And on the local scene there is widespread activity to lift the code out of the stagnating mediocrity in which it has rested for more than half a century.

National League

Two significant projects were mooted in 1963. The first was that a national league, similar to the professional structure in Britain, should be established. The league is not yet in being (1964). The early enthusiasm for a national competition had to be modified on the grounds of cost, and a series of regional leagues, possibly two in the North Island and one in the South, is now being considered. It seems certain that something better than the small scattered local league system will be introduced in the near future. The second project was a suggestion by an international tour promoter, Willi Treml of Zurich, that a New Zealand national side should make a world tour, the upshot being that on 11 March 1964 a party of five officials and 18 players left Wellington. The team played 15 games in seven countries, winning one, losing 13, and having one abandoned (against an English Amateur XI) after 70 minutes with the score 1–4. It was obvious that the heavy air-travel schedule, the abruptness with which climatic and ground conditions changed, and the superior playing standards of overseas teams were handicaps too big for the New Zealand side to master.

by Alfred Flett, Journalist, Auckland.


Alfred Flett, Journalist, Auckland.