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Auckland expansion remains distant hope

Monday, 28 January 2013 2:50 PM
 

Auckland expansion remains distant hope

Previous failures dominate discussions of a possible Hyundai A-League expansion in Auckland, with local experts quick to hose down any expectations - but there are examples of how it could work.

With the Phoenix coming to town to play Perth on February 2, the question about expansion in New Zealand has resurfaced, but the problems experienced by the Football Kingz and New Zealand Knights, the ashes from which the Phoenix arose, are still raw in the minds of locals.

And veteran Auckland journalist Terry Maddaford says those same obstacles stand in the way on any New Zealand expansion enterprise, even with other codes showing the right strategy can pay off.

"History would suggest an Auckland-based side in the A-League would not succeed," Maddaford said.

"The problem with the Kingz and Knights franchises in the city occurred because their money man lived in England and was never able to achieve 'hands-on' links with the club.

"The lesson from the experiences of those two sides was that any future Auckland-based club could not go into the competition under-prepared.

"The success of the A-League, something many in Europe still don't understand, means that clubs in Australia, especially, are able to pay big money for quality players.

"Sydney FC could pay $400,000 for Joel Griffiths while Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert can buy three players for $40,000. He is working with a pittance by comparison.

"That is something New Zealand teams, no matter how well they do, are always going to have to compete with.

"It's not easy. But, the success of the Breakers [basketball], the Warriors [league] and - although they are not in the city but in the region - the Magic [netball], show that it can be done. There is support for top teams."

Maddaford suggests, however, that Auckland-based NBL side New Zealand Breakers had shown they could attract huge support when they had sugar daddy investors close at hand and not trying to operate from a distance.

But at the same time they were not attempting to employ the hands-on role that had emerged with Gareth Morgan's involvement with the Phoenix.

There was support for football in Auckland as seen by the attendance at the last Phoenix game in Auckland, against Adelaide, last year when 20,000 turned up and saw the home side score a late goal to draw the game.

"The real test for the Phoenix will come this year when they haven't been doing so well," Maddaford added.

Auckland City FC president Ivan Vuksich, who has seen his club make four FIFA club World Cups and win four ASB Premierships while also being minor premiers on two other occasions and the four-time winners of the OFC Champions League, says discussion about a possible A-League team never gets much farther than just that.

"The thought of having an A-League team is something that surfaces every now and then," Vuksich said.

"However, the money involved always stopped the idea in its tracks. And at the moment sponsorship is almost impossible to get.

"Deep down we would love to have a crack but it would be all about having the right structure in place.

"It's got to start from the top."

Money, however, remains the problem, Vuksich says, and it is crucial for any new franchise to get the foundations right, as the management failures of the Kingz and Knights loom large.

"The players were good enough but the structure was not there," he said.

"It falls apart from the top. As they say, it is the head of the fish that rots first."

Support in Auckland for football was "pretty good", Vuksich said, but like Maddaford he felt the test would be for the Phoenix game at Eden Park.

"A good crowd for a club game in Auckland, a local derby against Waitakere City could draw 2-3000 fans, he said.

"The New Zealand public are pretty fickle. They like to support winning teams."

And again, Vuksich pointed to the Breakers as an example of what was required for a New Zealand club to be successful.

"They are an outstanding organisation. The people running the club are good, they recruit well and they have a good coach," Vuksich said.

"They would have to be the model for what is required."

 
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Comments (10)
 
Sorry to go away from NZ but we seriously need a team back in Wollongong. Sydney FC & Western Sydney Wanderers are way too far and expensie to travel to see and support. Miss the old NSL days with the Wollongong Wolves. I'm sure there are a number of people keen to support a Wollongong team, we just need to get the nod.
Boz  |  
31 Jan 2013 09:55 PM
 
 
If done right, an Auckland team would do as well as Wellington, but those who constantly call for Wellington to get kicked out have no idea, as Wellington makes money for the A-League.
Adam  |  
30 Jan 2013 09:42 PM
 
 
Exactly,boot outWellington and bring in Wollongong.
chicho  |  
29 Jan 2013 09:16 PM
 
 
While I agree that the article was not more than just a bit of a stir (so no need to start frothing at the mouth, Nick), it also makes no sense for the A-League to "boot out" any team that is financially sound. We do not live in Europe, football is popular but is not a dominant code, and it will be a very long time before we'll see promotion and relegation in Australia. Ignore the posturing from Middle East tycoons - having Wellington Phoenix is not "hurting the criteria for Champions League". It is the small league that is the problem. Having more teams that are viable, and play competitively in AFC, will give HAL extra AFC spots. So until you get more teams from Canberra, Wollongong or wherever, Wellington Phoenix are your friends and not enemies. And having one more market where FOX Sports can sell the HAL broadcast (via Sky TV in NZ) means the sponsorship money is also bigger.
Mainland FC  |  
29 Jan 2013 09:06 PM
 
 
As a fan of Auckland City FC I would be against expansion into Auckland. I personally believe NZ Football should concentrate on growing the ASB Premiership supposedly the premier football league in New Zealand.
Nick Brown  |  
29 Jan 2013 08:19 PM
 
 
Nick. Im sure if Auckland had an A-League franchise it would be completely separate from Auckland City. Just like Team Wellington who play in the New Zealand League and can qualify for OFC, is completely separate from the Wellington Phoenix.
Ben  |  
29 Jan 2013 08:12 PM
 
 
Is it April 1st? Surely A-League contraction in NZ is more likely and sensible that expansion.
Ben of BNE  |  
29 Jan 2013 03:09 PM
 
 
Nick - who do you suggest as the replacement for Wellington?
Wicked Ninja  |  
29 Jan 2013 03:03 PM
 
 
Most important to the success of any club is that Football be played in Small Rectangular Stadiums. Even more so in countries like NZ which has a small population and competition from other codes. I don't think now is the right time. Wait a few more years until the A-League and Wellington are getting bigger crowds regularly.
Lester  |  
29 Jan 2013 12:42 AM
 
 
there's noooooo way a team in auckland could work out. Its bad enough that we have a team from wellington.. the AFC doesnt like it, and its hurting our criteria for champions league places. Even more so, why would Auckland City give up a spot in OFC, where they're dominating and heading to the club world cup every year, for a spot in the A-League where they can't qualify for anything? Makes no sense for me.. its in the interest of the A-league to boot Wellington all together. What happens with the FFA cup for wellington? What happens when we eventually have relegation and they land in the australian state leagues? No sense at all..
Nick  |  
28 Jan 2013 11:26 PM