THERE are rumours the Wellington Phoenix Football Club may be on the move north - to Auckland.
Wellington City Council sports portfolio leader John Morrison says New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum and car dealer and rich-lister Colin Giltrap are looking to relocate the A-League side to Auckland.
"I've got it from very reliable sources, through council and through stadiums. Basically I am very confident of the sources, but obviously they can't all reveal themselves," Mr Morrison said.
"I think the key thing here that disturb us was New Zealand Football's involvement. New Zealand Football is here to represent New Zealand football, not a syndicate in Auckland, or to get involved in this activity."
Mr Morrison said he "had it pretty reliable sources" there were efforts to rebrand the club the "New Zealand Phoenix", which he said played a part in the failure of the two previous Auckland-based A-League clubs.
"It was a big mistake, well, they made a lot of mistakes with the Knights and the Kingz, but one of them was to call them "New Zealand". Which meant that Auckland didn't take ownership of them and everyone else in the country was cheesed off with them because they called them New Zealand and they didn't want a bar of them.
"I don't think it is very realistic, because Wellington is very much the brand of the Phoenix and the message to Auckland is if you want a football team, go and get your own."
Mr van Hattum categorically denied New Zealand Football were looking at relocating the club.
"One can never say never but I have to say this; wherever the rumour's started it's only false. There has been no talk about moving them to Auckland, it's not our club to move. Terry Serepisos owns the Football Phoenix, it's a private football club. No chance at all," Mr van Hattum told Radio Sport this morning.
"New Zealand Football is not involved in organizations with anyone at the moment, that's not our job to do that. Categorically not true and these rumours have been around for a long time there have been every man, woman and child that has been supposing to buy the Phoenix, save the Phoenix and do all that.
"Until Terry has no longer anything to do with the Phoenix, it's all a load of crap."
Mr van Hattum said the Football Federation of Australia owned the licence and should Mr Serepisos fail to keep the team, it will be up the FFA to reallocate the licence.
"If it all fell over we'd do exactly what we did last time. We'd help facilitate professional football franchise in New Zealand. To do that now and circumvent the process is disrespectful to Terry and is not something that is possible under the current ways that things are run."
The rumour comes as the club's owner Terry Serepisos's financial problems persist, with two of his companies facing receivership. Mr Serepisos's Century City Football, who own the Phoenix, last month dodged being liquidated.
Mr Serepisos told the Dominion Post the move was a "ridiculous, embarrassing joke" and would not succeed.
Mr Morrison has also questioned the Auckland Council's involvement in trying to move the club north of the Bombay Hills.
"We are conscious that the new Super City has a really big fighting fund for events, which is about $18 million, with at the moment nothing to spend it on. So they might be looking at possibilities around the country, rather than thinking up their own.
"One would imagine with a Super City ... obviously financially they are far bigger and more powerful than any other city in New Zealand. But one would hope they would look to develop some of their own identity in terms of events ... next thing they'll be looking at the Crusaders."
Whether the Phoenix would succeed in Auckland is questionable, following the failure of both the New Zealand Knights and Kingz to draw decent crowds to Albany's North Harbour Stadium, prior to the A-League licence heading south.
During the Phoenix inaugural season, 2007-08, the Wellington-based side drew an average of 11,683 to the home games at Westpac Stadium, while the Football Kingz drew an average of 6,620 during their most attended season in 2000-01. In the Knights last season, in 2006-07, they only drew 3,009 per game.
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