Can Wellington Phoenix rise from the ashes?

Cameron Kellett Roar Guru

By Cameron Kellett, Cameron Kellett is a Roar Guru

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    The Wellington Phoenix are calling for more patience in attack. (Image: AFP)

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    Close to two months ago I posed the question, will Wellington Phoenix flounder or flourish?

    At the time the article was written, Wellington were sitting in the dreaded last place with an average attendance of 7445 and, unfortunately, experiencing one of their most troubling periods in the club’s short history.

    I also asked if their off-field performances could be attributed just to their lack of on-field success.

    Options such as relocation were assessed but only for the purpose of a more suitable stadium which could aid in the match day experience fans were currently paying.

    The experience at Wellington home games, with no disrespect intended, does not match the atmosphere of rival clubs.

    On the 28th March 2007, the new name for New Zealand’s football club was chosen from roughly 250 proposed names.

    The club owner at the time, Terry Serepisos, explained the name chosen to represent the Wellington based club: “It symbolises the fresh start, the rising from the ashes, and the incredible Wellington support that has come out.”

    The ‘fresh’ aspect has surely waned and the strong support continues to dwindle regardless of one mid-week fixture, form and even playing a game away from their usual home of Westpac stadium at Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin.

    Attendances have currently dropped to 6,882, and although their past three performances have indicated a reversal in form, the trend seems harder to buck than originally thought.

    To rub salt into the wound, foundation coach Ricky Herbert decided his time with the club was up and the club mutually obliged.

    Ricky Herbert, although not your typical Postecoglou, Popovic or Arnold-stye coach, has served the Wellington Phoenix club to the best of his ability and prior to this season had accomplished what only three other teams had been able to accomplish – three successive finals appearances.

    The only teams to have done this prior to the culminating results of this season were Sydney FC 05/06, 06/07, 07/08, Newcastle Jets 05/06, 06/07, 07/08 and Melbourne Victory from seasons 08/09, 09/10, 10/11.

    After successful qualification and campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it would seem as though football in New Zealand was generating the interest required to support a New Zealand-based team and the All Whites.

    Unfortunately for football, the rugby codes are the two most popular sports in terms of attendance and viewing, so trying to convert fans across to football in summer was always going to be a challenge.

    With the phenomenal success of the Western Sydney Wanderers and their football journey capturing the imagination of the Australian football public, it could be viewed that the FFA have finally got it right.

    With community engagement emphasised in the creation of the Wanderers, football fans must wonder if the FFA could do it again, if required.

    We all know teams have their time in the doldrums.

    However, with a competition so even and with four rounds to go, anything is possible for any side, thus the need for fans at Wellington to provide their support more now than ever.

    Attractive, attacking and quality football are what the public and new owners are searching for but at what cost?

    If these trends continue and Phoenix’s new owners are not able to connect with the Wellington community and win matches attractively, then the question should be asked as to the importance of their inclusion in the A-League and ultimately the continual development of football in Australasia?

    Do they still have something to offer? Is it just a matter of time until the club is replaced? Or is it just a really bad season and they can’t wait for it to finish?

    Maintaining the momentum football has gathered in the past year is vital to the continual growth of the game, not just in Australia but in New Zealand also.

    With the salary cap being fully covered next season, some financial expenses may be alleviated which could aid club owners to vest their money into other aspects of football development.

    But will it be enough?

    Can Wellington Phoenix rise from the ashes and provide something to the continual development of the A-League?

    Or can another Australian team offer what the Phoenix aren’t?

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • March 5th 2013 @ 4:24am
      Johnno said | March 5th 2013 @ 4:24am | ! Report

      No there gone. Move the NZ team to Auckland the home of NZ football, and give the licence to Auckland city.

      The cake tin is awful for soccer too. So windy. Eden Park or MT Smart or North Harbour stadium much better.

      Soccer is far bigger in Auckland, and Auckland has bigger population.

      • March 5th 2013 @ 4:47am
        Jerry said | March 5th 2013 @ 4:47am | ! Report

        Knights/Kingz – it’s not like Auckland hasn’t already had a crack at it and failed.

      • March 5th 2013 @ 8:55am
        cruyff turn said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Eden Park??? You do realise it holds 50,000, don’t you?

        As for Auckland, they’ve already had two bites at it, and neither effort amounted to much. The Kingz were a disaster, and the Knights were even worse – with crowds barely bigger than the ones produced by Gold Coast.

        The FFA have stated again and again that NZ offers a potentially bigger market than any other Australian expansion alternative, yet I often wonder whether the Phoenix is there just to appease Oceania. The governing body needs to support the club and give it every chance of surviving, rather than leaving it high and dry like it did with North Queensland.

        However, if Wellington were to bite the dust, then either Canberra or Wollongong could possibly fill the void.

      • Roar Guru

        March 5th 2013 @ 8:42pm
        Cameron Kellett said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

        Johnnie,

        As pointed out Auckland has already had a crack, but in regards to Westpac Stadium I agree about the lack of quality it offers. Atmosphere was addressed within the first article as one of the big problems for Wellington but in terms of other possible stadiums, there was no other options.

        I believe the problems regarding use of Westpac need to be addressed, maybe, if possible, if kind, another stadium – 15,000-20,000? Maybe costly but atmosphere may be already proving a cost?

        • March 6th 2013 @ 9:28am
          jbinnie said | March 6th 2013 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          Kellett – During the televising of last week’s game from Dunedin the commentators made a slight reference to the fact that there were existing problems being endured by the local authority in meeting the bills for the stadium they were playing in which, to be honest, looked to be a modern,roofed,multi purpose stadium.If this reference carried any substance I doubt if you will see any local authority sinking dollars into smaller capacity stadia. jb

    • Roar Rookie

      March 5th 2013 @ 6:35am
      Victorioso said | March 5th 2013 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      New Zealand football needs to move to the AFC, if they don’t the FFA should kill off the New Zealand franchise as it hurts the A-leagues reputation and legitimacy in Asia.

    • March 5th 2013 @ 8:32am
      jbinnie said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Kellet – This is a question for the true thinkers in the game.The NZ franchise was an idea that in it’s conception & acceptance by the powers that be, both in NZ and OZ ,could only have had one driving factor, the improvement of the game in NZ ,and an overall concept of the “area in total” emerging from the levels of the Oceania standard of football. The establishment of this arrangement was fraught with danger for ,in NZ there was never going to be the opportunity to build on inter-city,or inter- area,rivalry, only on inter – country rivalry which has never happened and is unlikely to happen due to that area already being covered by both “national” teams.
      The hard facts of the matter are that though there has been some indication that there are latent football crowds in Christchurch and Auckland it is doubtful if establishment of teams in those 2 cities could be absorbed into the cost structures of the FFA at this point in time due to the continuing rise in costs of travel,accomodation etc etc.so intercity rivalry in NZ remains a pipedream..
      The continuing growth in the HAL is causing problems not only in Wellington but in Australia for we have vast performance differences between clubs in the field of building a fan base,with Victory far outstripping Heart for instance ,not because of the city, but circumstances being what they are. Victory’s average attendance to home games is 22,274,compared to Heart’s 9350.This is a classic scenario for the rich getting richer and the poor staying poor so we have problems to be faced in the “home “part of our competition without worrying about Phoenix’s problem (average home crowd of 6890) which can surely be partly blamed on the
      “isolationist” situation that they find themselvs in.
      So my friend,your question has truly opened a can of worms for the FFA will not want any negative publicity off-setting their Western Sydney endeavour,but the problem you have un-earthed will not go away and will have to be addressed sooner than later. jb

      • Roar Guru

        March 5th 2013 @ 10:09am
        Cameron Kellett said | March 5th 2013 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Jbinnie,

        As you have clearly noticed, I only seek to ask the question others may not. It’s discovering the problems now and not later, that can make the difference between the Phoenix survival or immanent collapse.

        I don’t wish to bash the team but wish to look further into the issues of the club in an effort to unearth solutions.

        I don’t want Phoenix out of the competition but currently what they offer isn’t exactly aiding in the continual trend that is moving forward. It could be just a bad season and that’s fine but if next season didn’t improve off the field or on it then once again these questions will be raised.

        Do we all sit idly by and wait for their demise to occur in which someone will write about it and 100+ comments will follow? Or look to actually address the problems as A-league supporters and aid in their continuation in the A-league?

        All these questions really are for the true thinkers of the game.

    • March 5th 2013 @ 9:07am
      hog said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Wellington problems do stem from their stadium and also weather which can affect crowds in the early part of the season especially then requiring bumper crowds later to lift averages but that is also tied to performance, it is a bit harsh to be calling on them to be dropped, have they not reached the finals for the last three years.
      And isnt’ everyone jumping on the WSW bandwagon just a bit quickly, remember it is only year one, look i’m not knocking them but a lot of peolpe seem to have short memories.

      • Roar Guru

        March 5th 2013 @ 8:50pm
        Cameron Kellett said | March 5th 2013 @ 8:50pm | ! Report

        Hog,

        As pointed out they have made the finals three years in a row and unfortunately the problem is the lack of ‘effort’ or enthusiasm to capitalise on this previous success.

        The fans are 100% there but the core is not strong enough to alleviate costs of their current owners.

        32,792 back in 2009/10 was their highest ever attendance but this was during the dream run by New Zealands All Whites.

    • Roar Guru

      March 5th 2013 @ 9:16am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      1. On field
      The NIX have played 1 extra match, but they are only:
      a) 3 points behind SydFc (who have Ale Del Piero, Brett Emerton, Ryan Griffiths & Lucas Neill. They also had Jason Culina for a few games.)
      b) 3 pts behind MelbHeart
      c) 1 pt behind PerthGlory, who played in the ALeague GF last yr and are considered to have 1 of the strongest teams on paper.
      and…
      d) 4 pts behind a spot in the finals, which is currently being filled by Brisbane, who won the GF last yr.

      Verdict: Yes, the NIX have had a bad year but, I’ve watched a few of their home matches & can’t believe how many matches they’ve created numerous goal chances but have either hit the woodwork, just hit wide or been deprived by GK save. Even when they lost 7-2 to SydFC away from home, the NIX totally dominated the 1st half & it should have been leading 1-4 at HT; but childish defending against ADP saw them losing 5-0!

      2. Off-field
      The NIX average crowd this yr (not including the regional game) is 7.2k. Their 6yr average in the A-League is 8.7k These figures hold up well against CCM, MBH, PER.

      Heck in 2010/11 season, the NIX had higher average crowds than SydFC!

      Verdict: The NIX crowds this season reflect their low position on the table.

      Overall verdict: The NIX have had a bad year but things are looking brighter than they did 2 weeks ago.

    • Roar Guru

      March 5th 2013 @ 9:54am
      Cameron Kellett said | March 5th 2013 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      Fuss,

      “1. On field

      The NIX have played 1 extra match, but they are only:”

      The points you then provide a, b, c, d. Do they seek to provide a justifiable reason as to their current position on the ladder?
      Do these points you make seek to point out how close they are to the fighting competition above them? And mathematically they are a chance to make the finals?

      If so doesn’t that somewhat aid to my point that it their season isn’t over and support for the club would be vital now more than ever as trying to aid your team to finals by supporting should be the purpose of a supporter right now?

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