Football: New Zealand's Olympic hopefuls pleading coach Des Buckingham remains in charge

Player power is once again threatening to engulf New Zealand Football.

Newshub understands 24 players have written to the governing body, urging them to retain Des Buckingham as coach of the men's Olympic team for Tokyo.

It's understood the letter was written by senior players. and supported by the bulk of the Under-20 and Under-23 squads Buckingham was in charge of over the past two years, after speculation arose over his future and the prospect of him not going to Japan.

Buckingham is contracted with NZF through to August when the 2020 Olympic Games were meant to finish. But due to COVID-19, that tournament has been pushed back a year, with Buckingham's contract not guaranteed to be extended.

"We haven't made any decisions around employment matters yet, we're still taking full financial stock of where we're at and where we're gonna land New Zealand," NZ Football CEO Andrew Pragnell told Newshub two weeks ago.

At the same time, Newshub revealed Buckingham's assistant Hiroshi Miyazawa and Mark Oates were let go.

It was a cost-cutting measure by NZF as the organisation looked to tighten its belt and offset potential losses during the current pandemic.

But instead of it being a temporary departure, they were told they won't be going to the Olympics altogether, with no ability to negotiate a way to carry on through to Tokyo.

It's understood an offer was made to do the job for free, however, that offer fell on deaf ears.

In 2018, 12 Football Ferns wrote to New Zealand Football complaining about the then coach Andreas Heraf. It led to Heraf's departure and a damning review into NZF's conduct and culture.

But a letter in support of a coach is unprecedented. It's a brave move and strong statement from the players who are being proactive in trying to ensure continuity ahead of the glamour event next year.

Newshub approached NZF today, but they refused to comment.