The Wellington Phoenix's beleaguered owners are considering abandoning Westpac Stadium to save money.
The Welnix consortium has had talks with Wellington City Council about downsizing from the 34,500-seat stadium and shifting to Newtown Park, which has 1000 seats, no floodlights, and limited parking.
City councillor John Morrison confirmed yesterday that he had been involved in several "informal" talks with the club's owners about possibly moving to Newtown.
"The thought has been mentioned. But it hasn't got to the point of official status.
"The [idea that] the Phoenix would actually develop the ground so they could play there is totally informal. I know it [the idea] is floating around . . . The owners have certainly mentioned it."
Average attendance over this season's eight home games at Westpac Stadium is just 7127. Across the A-League, the average attendance after the first four rounds was 15,460.
The meagre crowds mean the Phoenix are running at a $1 million loss each season.
Welnix owners declined to return calls about a possible move night. However, economist Gareth Morgan, one of the owners, said in a blog on Thursday that many options were being explored to cut losses. "I remind everyone that this club loses money every year and, on that basis, we are looking at a range of ways to change that."
Mr Morrison said finances were the main reason Newtown Park was being considered. "That's certainly the rationale . . . that's how that [idea] was born."
But he said the idea was not popular with the council, and nor would it guarantee better crowds for the club.
"I'm not sure that it solves anything. It probably makes it cheaper overhead but, ultimately, if you want to be very successful, you'd like to see the stadium with consistently 10,000 to 15,000 people.
"If you're winning, you get plenty of people; if you're losing, you don't.
"We obviously don't want the Phoenix, or anybody else, to leave the stadium."
Newtown Park has 1000 seats in a grandstand on one side of the park, plus standing room on a grass bank.
A council spokesman said any possible move would also involve numerous "consent problems".
The revelation of a possible move comes as the team struggles to implement a new playing style. It has won just one of its past six games, and was thrashed 7-1 by Sydney last weekend.
This week Dr Morgan criticised fans as pathetic and unsophisticated for wanting short-term success - a diatribe that has exasperated team captain Andrew Durante.
"I've been through so much Gareth talk in the last few months, I've basically just blocked it out," Durante said yesterday.
"Regardless of what Gareth said, we want the fans there. We love the fans, we're not much of a club without [them]."
The players had been doing "a bit of soul searching" after last week's spanking, and he promised a better performance when the Phoenix host the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium tomorrow.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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