NZ Football has axed their Olympic men's coach Des Buckingham, defying a combined plea from the players that he be retained.
New Zealand Football has ignored the pleas of its players and sacked Olympic coach Des Buckingham following the postponement of the Tokyo Games.
The governing body confirmed it had replaced successful age-group coach Buckingham with All Whites men's coach Danny Hay in a strategic as well as cost-saving move.
With the Tokyo Olympics having been pushed back a year to July 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, NZF chief executive Andrew Pragnell said Hay would take the reins of the under-23 side.
Pragnell said the consolidation of roles would provide clarity for the players and allow the 2021 Games campaign to work in conjunction with the qualification process for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The decision will anger the Olympic players, who qualified for Tokyo under Buckingham and this month delivered an all-squad letter to Pragnell in a bid to have their coach retained.
The letter, seen by AAP, said speculation Buckingham was set to be dumped left them disappointed and concerned.
"We appreciate the 100s, if not 1000s of hours Des has put into not only creating this culture, but also developing individual players as footballers and as people.
"We hope a solution can be found to keep the whanau (family) together to continue the success we have had."
Pragnell didn't refer to the letter in confirming the change but thanked Buckingham for his contribution.
He said COVID-19 had forced programs to be suspended and coaches stood down.
"We are deeply disappointed that we were not able to attend the Olympics this year and have empathy for what this outcome means for Des and the current men's U23 group."
The stand-downs appear at odds with a New Zealand government pledge to maintain funding levels for Olympic programs for an additional year to help sports continue through to the rescheduled Olympics.