27 Oct 2015

Phoenix licence extension refused

7:32 am on 27 October 2015

The Wellington Phoenix will release a statement this morning surrounding their future in the A-League football competition after Australian football's ruling body declined the club's request for a 10-year licence extension.

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Will the Wellington Phoenix flags keep flying? Photo: Photosport

Football Federation Australia (FFA) says the club, whose licence expires at the end of the current season, can still request a four-year licence until the conclusion of the 2019/2020 season.

But whether that will satisfy Wellington Phoenix ownership group Welnix is another matter.

The Phoenix tweeted late last night that they would release a statement this morning (Tuesday) regarding the licence situation.

The Wellington-based club is financially stable and brings a potential television market of more than four million people to the Australian federation's table - whereas some of the other A-League clubs are propped up by FFA.

But whispers of a third Sydney franchise seeking to join the current set-up, where Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers regularly sell-out more than 40,000 seats, may well be the real reason for the situation.

A spokesperson for Phoenix supporters club Yellow Fever, David Cross, said Welnix wanted a commitment from FFA for a longer-term future, and this rejection was an insult.

"If I was the Phoenix owners and I saw them turning around and offering me four years, that to me says that they believe that in four years they will have the wherewithal to manufacture a club in Sydney - or wherever else they want one - at the expense of the Phoenix," Mr Cross said.

The Wellington Phoenix said in a statement that Welnix and the Phoenix board would consider the situation in due course, and the club would not comment further at this stage.

Special exemption needed

The situation is muddied by the fact that the Phoenix's base is in New Zealand, which makes it a member of the Oceania Confederation, but the team plays in Australia, which is in the Asian Confederation (AFC).

This means the franchise needs a special dispensation from the AFC and world football's ruling body, FIFA, to take part in the competition.

"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," FFA boss David 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."

An online petition to protest the licence refusal had gathered more than 900 signatures by 10pm on Monday night.