New Zealand will soon have two sides competing in the A-League Men’s competition and not too long after that, a second women’s team in the Liberty A-League.
Bill Foley is a 78-year-old American businessman who owns Premier League club AFC Bournemouth in the United Kingdom, has a significant stake in FC Lorient in France and heads a consortium of owners who control the Las Vegas Knights, an expansion ice hockey team in the United States.
The Texas-born billionaire has been granted the newest A-League licence, with the men’s team set to join the competition in 2024/25 and the women’s team to come into the fold a season later.
Foley’s net worth has been most recently estimated at around $1.6 billion, with Forbes usually reliable in making such estimations.
He is exactly the type of person Australian football needs and has drawn to it, via impressive international results from both the Socceroos and Matildas, with the fundamental core of the playing groups having cut their teeth in the domestic competitions.
With Perth Glory seemingly on the brink of something special, and an ownership interest that fell through at the eleventh hour, as well as the Newcastle Jets still waiting patiently for the investment and belief from a committed source that could potentially turn the tide for the men from the Hunter, Foley’s investment into the A-League is much needed.
Some will argue that a second New Zealand team is not the most urgent necessity for the A-League right now and a decent argument they could potentially make.
However, when a billionaire with a proven track record in investing in sports teams and achieving success whilst not leaking money at a rate that could have them baulking at the thought of doing so again decides to take the plunge, the domestic game as a whole should be shouting with joy.
Without a crystal ball, it is of course impossible to know whether the plunge into the Auckland market which will be a positive for the A-League in the short term, is also to be advantageous in the long term.
Yet the Phoenix have pulled excellent crowds in recent years whilst playing in New Zealand and away from home in the exquisite harbour city.
Frankly, I do not quite understand some people’s reluctance to have a second New Zealand-based team, particularly where the crowds in the home base of the new franchise have been better than those at the cake tin, where the Phoenix has grown as a club over the last decade.
The investment of Foley and the sheer logic of the numbers suggest that Auckland will make a far bigger immediate splash in the A-Leagues than the arrivals of Western United and Macarthur FC, in spite of the fact that United did manage to win a premiership in quick time.
Foley set about a six-year plan to get the Vegas Golden Knights to the promised land and raise the NHL Stanley Cup trophy. Many thought he was mad, yet the prophecy came true and the 2023 championship says a lot in terms of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is.
Bournemouth continue to be a worthy adversary in the EPL, now back in the top flight after some time in the EFL Championship and for now, outside the drop zone as the competition approaches Christmas.
Rumours that Foley is eyeing off investment in Scottish Premier League club Hibernian could prove fact or folly, yet the opportunity to welcome an international investor with a proven track record in bringing success to the teams in whom he hitches his wagon is one simply impossible to refuse.
With National Second Division announcements and the pending Matilda and Socceroo broadcast deals to be announced by Football Australia in the near future parlaying all the positivity circling the game right now, Foley’s entrance to the domestic scene looks a no-brainer and a potential coup for the APL.
The A-League will have 13 teams next season and yes, the competition has been burnt in the past by certain individuals claiming to bring everything required and subsequently being proven as nothing but snake oil salesman.
Foley looks cut from a different cloth and if only football could drag a few billionaire locals like Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and Gina Rinehart away from the colonial sporting money pits they have supported in the past and invest in the game set to frame the future of Australian sport on the international stage, the A-Leagues might well stand a chance of growing exponentially over the next decade.
Welcome aboard Auckland, I look forward to the away day.