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Phoenix future plunged into doubt by FFA

Soccer

Wellington Phoenix management will seek clarity from Football Federation Australia before deciding whether to apply for a shorter-than-expected A-League licence extension.

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A request for a 10-year A-League licence was declined by the FFA, throwing the Wellington-based club’s future into doubt.

They have instead been offered the option of requesting a four-year licence until the end of the 2019/20 season.

After initially declining to comment, the Phoenix released a statement on Tuesday, explaining the club’s Welnix ownership group is yet to consider the reduced offer.

“The club will be seeking greater clarity around the reasons for rejection of the proposal and how the FFA is evaluating the Phoenix’s contribution to game development, player pathway, commercial factors, broadcast rights and the long-term success of the Hyundai A-League, to which the Phoenix is already making a material and positive contribution,” the statement said.

FFA boss David Gallop said on Monday his board’s decision was made “in the best interests of Australian football”.

“FFA has carefully evaluated the role and contribution of the Wellington franchise in terms of game development, player pathway, commercial factors, broadcast rights and the long-term strategic outlook,” Gallop said in a statement.

“The application for a 10-year extension to the licence does not meet the requirements we see as fundamental to the future growth of the Hyundai A-League.”

Welnix had pushed for a more stable 10-year arrangement, something it has said is important to retain and attract commercial support.

The FFA decision comes after the Phoenix were forced to play down reports last week they could be kicked out of the league next year in favour of a third Sydney team.

Fairfax Media reported on Thursday that FFA is examining the possibility of replacing the Phoenix with a new team in Sydney as early as next year, in line with its stance that there are no short-term plans for expansion.
Sydney’s Sutherland Shire has been named as a prospective area to house a new team, with the report claiming meetings involving the FFA, Sutherland Shire Council, NRL club Cronulla and the Sutherland Shire Football Association have already been held.

The Phoenix moved quickly to dismiss any talk of being dropped, with general manager David Dome saying they had been told they were still in the A-League’s plans but admitted there was no timeline on the “fluid situation”.

The FFA last year extended the length of the licences of all nine Australia-based clubs until 2034.

The Phoenix was formed in 2007 and replaced the Auckland-based New Zealand Knights in the A-League that year.

Their best result in eight seasons was reaching the preliminary final in 2010.

The Phoenix are the only club in the world to compete in a league of a different confederation (Asian) from that of the country where it is based (Oceania).

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