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Do Wellington Phoenix deserve to be in the A-League?

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1st August, 2019
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Wellington Phoenix have been the subject of big debate ever since they joined the competition in 2007.

People have always asked whether they deserve to be in the competition. When I told one of my teachers about the New Zealand-based side in the A-League Wellington, she responded with, “Oh, that’s cute”. That got me thinking, do Wellington Phoenix deserve to be in the A-League?

There’s no doubt the Phoenix are struggling in the A-League. Even though Mark Rudan guided them to a sixth-place finish last season, they still need to improve to show that they deserve their licence.

During the off-season Wellington Phoenix have lost no less than 12 players. Apart from their manager, they’ve lost golden boot winner Roy Krishna, golden glove winner Filip Kurto, star striker David Williams, club captain Andrew Durante, playmakers Max Burgess and Sarpreet Singh as well as Nathan Burns, Anthony Golec, Justin Gulley, Michal Kopczynski, Ryan Lowry, Cillian Sheridan and Tom Doyle.

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But what does this show? While Krishna and Singh chose to leave due to bigger opportunities, with Krishna leaving to ATK and Singh to Bayern Munich, Kurto, Durante and Burgess left to Western United. Why would they leave after such a great season for a completely new club?

But why are they in the A-League?

The main reason is probably that New Zealand doesn’t seem interested in football. If they were to convince half the country to start watching the A-League and support Wellington, that would not only increase the team’s income, but it might make the Phoenix a more attractive destination.

But unfortunately this seems unlikely to be the case. Very few New Zealanders watch the A-League, and most people out of Wellington probably haven’t heard of it. So things haven’t worked out in New Zealand for the FFA. But was that the only reason they were created?

Well, they weren’t the first team from New Zealand in the A-League. The Football Kingz originally appeared in the National Soccer League from 1999 and became the New Zealand Knights in the A-League in 2005-06. However, the side dissolved in 2007. It seemed Kiwi football would never again see minutes in the A-League given viewers never seemed to reach great heights, plus it was a lot of money for teams to travel across countries.

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But somehow a few supporters of New Zealand football managed to get a new team together and convinced the FFA that a New Zealand team in the A-League was beneficial for everyone. On 19 March in 2007 the FFA awarded Wellington Phoenix an A-League license.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been quite what the FFA and Wellington have hoped, with their highest finish being fourth and with them picking up the wooden spoon in 2012-13. In total they have come fourth, sixth and ninth three times apiece and seventh, eighth and tenth once each.

They have managed to make only the round of 16 in the FFA Cup and have never made an A-League grand final.

Wellington has been neither a success nor a failure in the A-League, and they have until 2026 to prove why they deserve to stay in the tournament. They have been good publicity for the FFA and A-League, but they haven’t attracted the views and support from New Zealand that was first expected.

But do Wellington Phoenix deserve to be in the A-League?