Can NZ accommodate a second A-League team?

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    Wellington Phoenix's Tim Brown celebrates after scoring against Melbourne Victory during their round 6 match, played at the Ethihad stadium in Melbourne, Sunday, Sept 13, 2009. Phoenix drew the match with Victory 1-1 after full time.(AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    After almost 20,000 fans packed out Christchurch’s AMI Stadium for last weekend’s Wellington-Adelaide clash, many pundits have been asking whether the South Island’s largest city should be a site for future A-League expansion.

    Last Saturday’s brilliant crowd turn-out definitely suggests there is an appetite for football in Christchurch, and with a population of just under 400,000 people, it would be understandable for the FFA to have some interest in tapping into the market.

    Indeed, the attendance figure of 19,258 at AMI Stadium, ignoring the fanatical Melbourne crowds, is the second-best in this A-League season to date, only bettered by Brisbane’s Round 1 M1-Derby number of 19,902.

    I dare say, the FFA have taken notice. The figure certainly stands out over the A-League expansion hopefuls from Canberra, who only managed a pair of 5,000-odd crowds for two fixtures this season.

    But, of course, the FFA will be reluctant to make any significant moves into ‘the Land of the Long White Cloud’ due to the AFC’s stance on Wellington’s participation in the Australian top flight.

    And that is the lingering issue which will thwart anything being put in stone… for now at least. After all, there is hope for a resolution on this topic in the future.

    In the meantime, the FFA and the Wellington Phoenix, for the good of New Zealand football, should persist with an annual pilgrimage down to Christchurch.

    That would be the ideal way to test the waters in Christchurch and ascertain whether or not a club could actually be sustainable in rugby-mad Canterbury anyway.

    After all, a Christchurch franchise would need their own version of Nix owner Terry Serepisos (who has been so crucial to Wellington’s success) to start up a bid, and no one in their right mind would do so without more experimentation and trial matches.

    Anyway, I’ve been lucky enough to spend a fair bit of time in New Zealand’s South Island in the past and this week I got in touch with a few old folk from Christchurch who informed me last Saturday was quite the occasion around town.

    Indeed, there were a number of mitigating circumstances which built up the occasion, especially following New Zealand’s qualification for their second ever World Cup and first in 28 years, which really has bolstered football’s profile across ‘the ditch’, at least for the next few months.

    As well, Wellington are on the verge of claiming their first ever A-League finals berth and with an army of colourful supporters travelling down from the North Island, there was every reason to join the party.

    And, of course, the novelty of the opportunity to see an A-League game, I’m informed, certainly had an effect too.

    Nevertheless, Christchurch is a town with a passion for sport and their local rugby union club, the Crusaders, are almost the Manchester United of Super 14.

    Whilst in Christchurch, I distinctly remember my surprise when walking the streets at the amount of Crusaders paraphernalia being sported like some kind of fashion statement. And no, it wasn’t matchday, it was an everyday occurrence!

    There’s no doubt the South Island city offers a fresh market and with that opportunities.

    But those opportunities aren’t just limited to the A-League, but also the Phoenix who can spread their brand, as well as NZF, who’d love another pathway for young Kiwi footballers.

    Indeed, there’s plenty of vested interests in the Christchurch market, but we shouldn’t get too carried away and the sustainability of such a project needs more experimentation.

    And, of course, the AFC’s stance on Oceania confederation clubs competing in an Asian league won’t go away anytime soon.

    But, despite the AFC’s stance, A-League matches can still be played in New Zealand, so in the meantime it makes plenty of sense for annual games in Christchurch.

    Not only will an annual Christchurch match provide a good measure for future expansion, but going on Saturday’s showing, it’ll make for quite the occasion and occasions are just what the A-League needs.

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    The Crowd Says (71)

    • February 7th 2010 @ 4:58am
      Mr cheese said | February 7th 2010 @ 4:58am | ! Report

      Just a question: what will be the NZ people / NZ Media reaction if ( when… ) their team takes a good hiding at this summer’s World Cup ?

      Will they just shrug their shoulders and accept that this was inevitable, or will it do a bit of damage to the nascent success of the sport in New Zealand ???

      People generally like watching a winning team, je suppose, though 80,000 Italians did visit the San Siro to watch their ‘struggling’ ( i.e. rubbish ) Rugby team lose to the All Blacks.

      • February 7th 2010 @ 2:53pm
        katzilla said | February 7th 2010 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

        Yeah but im sure you’d fill any stadium in NZ to see Brazil give the All Whites a Whoopin too Cheese.
        Italy wouldnt fill San Siro for any other team.

        • February 7th 2010 @ 3:55pm
          allblackfan said | February 7th 2010 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

          maybe not; it would depend if the ABs were playing at the same time!

      • Roar Rookie

        February 7th 2010 @ 4:35pm
        jake said | February 7th 2010 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

        Mr Cheese get over your self! we know our place on the world football stage. Getting to the world cup was a huge achievement in itself. The three pool games ill be some of the biggest party’s NZ will see this year.Win, loose, draw or hiding our presence at the worlds biggest sporting stage will increase the profile of the sport in NZ. All Black fan id rather watch the All Whites cop a 6-0 hiding than a snooze-fest game of rugby any day!!

      • February 7th 2010 @ 5:57pm
        Ora said | February 7th 2010 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

        I think the frustration of the English football team doing the choke like the ABs at their respective worldcups is getting to Cheesey ๐Ÿ™‚
        It’s alright son we will party like no other take our whippings on the chin and continue on with life.
        I doubt many kiwis will be too disheartened at all should a cricket score be racked up against them, the team have already conquered what was deemed unachievable by many outside our wee isles, so anything from here on in is a bonus be that a hiding, draw or a win.
        You see in football we understand our place we know we’re not the best but we are better than the 5th best team Asia can put up and that has 4 million kiwis grinning from ear to ear ๐Ÿ™‚ some would say a rather Cheesey smile!!

        • February 7th 2010 @ 11:48pm
          Mr cheese said | February 7th 2010 @ 11:48pm | ! Report

          Well, you may not be convinced by this but…

          my question was not meant to be all that combative. I wanted NZ to qualify, so you can’t really accuse me of being anti-NZ. Unless they play England ( unlikely ), I will support NZ in any game they play this summer. They will be underdogs every time, so perhaps they need all the help they can get.

          So don’t be offended. I thought it was a fair question to ask: what damage will be done to association football in NZ if the team gets hammered in South Africa.

          Best wishes, and I apologise if I did not make myself clear.

          P.S. NZ choke at Rugby World Cups even though they’re the best. England choke in football, but we’re not the best. That’s the difference.

          • February 8th 2010 @ 5:29am
            Ora said | February 8th 2010 @ 5:29am | ! Report

            You see Cheese that’s where you are wrong if New Zealand are one of the best teams yes but why are they not the favourite every time?
            Unfortunately for you chesse NZ has not been the favourite at every world cup, like the English football team New Zealand is expected to do well and like the English football team they also crumble on the big stage.
            back to crying into your cornflakes me thinks

          • February 9th 2010 @ 3:13pm
            DaMan3000 said | February 9th 2010 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

            Don’t mind Ora, he doesn’t speak for all kiwi’s. I for one am another Nuw Zulinder who is “grinning from ear to ear” The fact that we get to play against Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia is fantastic and the score will be irrelevant. My recollection is that was the general feeling during the Socceroos pool games in ’06??? and that making it into the knockout round was a bonus…

            Yay we’re better than the 5th best Asian team!!! And the AFC says the ‘Nix can’t play in the A-League – how rude.

            • February 9th 2010 @ 5:13pm
              Ora said | February 9th 2010 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

              The fact that you have agreed with and said pretty much exactly what I have been saying has me in stitches. Daman you don’t happen to be from Hamilton do you

      • January 12th 2011 @ 1:13pm
        Mark said | January 12th 2011 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Obviosuly this thread is dead now, but I dont remeber us getting that good hiding you were so sure about aye Mr Cheese?

    • February 7th 2010 @ 6:14am
      Ora said | February 7th 2010 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      I don’t think it will be the end of the world Mr Cheese, soccer is on the up but it still barely gets any recognition in this country. Aside from the world cup qualifiers soccer is rarely mentioned. The country will not go into mourning and the little white kids will continue to turn up to the soccer pitch come saturday

      • February 7th 2010 @ 9:28am
        Mr cheese said | February 7th 2010 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        Little white kids ?

        What does that mean ?

        • February 7th 2010 @ 9:43am
          The Bush said | February 7th 2010 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          He’s implying that only European New Zealander’s player football, whilst those with a more Pacific heritage continue to play rugby and generally ignore the round-ball game.

          Which may or may not be true of course…

        • February 7th 2010 @ 10:29am
          Ora said | February 7th 2010 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          Oh here we go people reading to much into an off the cuff comment,
          If you knew anything about New Zealand soccer you would see the humour in what I was saying.
          In recent years soccer popularity has gone through the roof in kids under the age of 14 and one of the big reasons for the increase especially of white kids is that their parents don’t want their kids getting smashed to pieces by the bigger boned Maori and pacific kids. Europeans tend to develop at a later stage and the fear of their wee darlings getting hurt has lead to a huge increase in white kids playing soccer at an early age.

          But of course this is a inhouse New Zealand joke and I wouldn’t expect those from outside of NZ to get it. i will endeavour to explain it a little more in depth to save people getting their noses out of joint like clearly has happened in here. Come on fellas time to breathe

      • February 7th 2010 @ 9:44am
        MV Dave said | February 7th 2010 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Obviously hasnt seen any of the fantastic African boys playing our game.

    • February 7th 2010 @ 6:40am
      Lee said | February 7th 2010 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      Don’t know, look at chch super 14 crowd figures, they don’t even sell out semi finals most of the time. I would be highly suspicious about the number of repeat attendies or wheather it was a case of the football being a novelty.

      Also the crusaders are the most successful side in super rugby. I doubt nz would have the ability to field a second competitive team in the a league, and if a chch team were not competitive then crowd figures would probsbly dip well below crusaders level.

    • February 7th 2010 @ 6:41am
      Punter said | February 7th 2010 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      Never affected England’s love of the game, when they are constistently demolished at most WCs. Only Spain has been a bigger choker than England on the WC stage.

      • February 7th 2010 @ 9:27am
        Mr cheese said | February 7th 2010 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Ah, the traditional inferiority complex ???

        The difference between England and Australia, for example, is that we in England actually like football. In Australia, it seems to be evidence of The Cultural Cringe i.e. people in the colony feign an interest in the sport because it’s popular elsewhere.

        Did the New Zealand victory over Australia in the last ( ahem…) “Rugby League World Cup” (TM) affect the standing of RL in the colony ??

        It’s worth pointing out, of course, that England are seldom ‘demolished’ in World Cups. They choke on penalties. Not quite the same thing. Perhaps you didn’t realise because people in the colony only started to take an interest in football about 10 minutes ago.

        Best wishes,

        • February 7th 2010 @ 9:41pm
          LT80 said | February 7th 2010 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

          Australia was never a colony.

          You have a distinctly middlebrow stench about you, cheese.

          • February 7th 2010 @ 11:43pm
            Mr cheese said | February 7th 2010 @ 11:43pm | ! Report

            Highbrow, young man.

            There is the stench of cheese, it’s true.

            Australia was and is a colony.

            We in England are now a colony of the USA, so you’re probably in the better position.

      • February 7th 2010 @ 9:37am
        Fisher Price said | February 7th 2010 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Yeah right… Not a final, semi or quarter appearance in sight.

    • February 7th 2010 @ 7:11am
      MV Dave said | February 7th 2010 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      Certainly Chch is worth more investigation and the staging of further HAL matches. Perhaps in 1-2 years when the AFC matter has been clarified and further games played there, FFA will be in a better position to make a decision. Certainly was a great crowd, in number, noise and color. Well done WP and Chch.

    • February 7th 2010 @ 7:12am
      Punter said | February 7th 2010 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      I think it would be great to give Wellington a local derby.
      It is derbies & traditional rivalries that generate most interest.
      Of course as Ben mentions it all depends on the lobbying on the AFC front.
      I think Lowy has gone on record that he wants a 2nd NZ team.

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