2 Jun 2010

Phoenix club boss rejoining family in Melbourne

9:51 pm on 2 June 2010

The chief executive of the Wellington Phoenix football club, Tony Pignata, says his resignation has nothing to do with the financial situation of club owner Terry Serepisos.

A Wellington property company owned by Mr Serepisos reportedly owed the Wellington City Council $2 million in overdue rates at one point, though last month Mr Serepisos said most of that debt had been paid.

Explaining what he calls a tough decision, Mr Pignata says that he has had enough of trans-Tasman commuting since his wife and children moved back to Melbourne six months ago.

There have also been reports of players' salaries being paid late during the season but Mr Pignata says salaries for both players and the club's administrators are now up to date.

He says he'd never leave the club if it was in financial difficulty.

Proud that 'credibility' was regained

Mr Pignata, an Australian who has been chief executive since the club's inception three years ago, says he does not have a new job to go to - but he has indicated an interest in the vacant position of chief executive at the new Super 15 rugby franchise, the Melbourne Rebels.

He says he feels his greatest achievement with the Phoenix has been helping New Zealand football regain some credibility - when he took up the job, he says, New Zealand A league teams were always seen as easybeats.

That changed in the space of three years, he says, with the Phoenix going close to making this final this year and attracting large crowds.