Phoenix may get game with Everton

BY FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 03/03/2009

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Wellington Phoenix are in negotiations with English Premier League club Everton over staging a match at Westpac Stadium.

Everton, currently sixth in the EPL, have agreed to play A-League team Perth Glory in Perth, though the deal is subject to them playing at least one other team Down Under.

It is understood Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast are also exploring the possibility of hosting the Merseysiders.

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata, who also revealed he was speaking to London EPL club Fulham about a possible pre-season fixture, said he had been approached by Everton but any deal would come down to "commercial viability".

Travel costs would be shared between the A-League clubs that hosted Everton but, even if a match in Wellington was tagged on as a third game in Australasia, it is estimated the cost to the Phoenix would be about NZ$1.1 million.

"If it suits, then definitely we'll do it. It really comes down to dollars, and how many people we'd get through the gate," Pignata said.

"It would be great to get teams from the English Premiership playing here, but if it's not commercially viable, we won't do it, and the exchange rates are a worry."

Crowd numbers, but particularly sponsorship and TV rights, would have to be sufficient enough to "break even", as was the case with the successfully staged Los Angeles Galaxy match, featuring David Beckham, in December 2007.

"That's where you get a lot of your money back and that's why we did so well out of Beckham," Pignata said. "Yes, we nearly sold the stadium out, but Sony and all the other sponsors came on board for that game and it all adds dollars to the bottom line."

Pignata said they were currently discussing costs and he estimated a crowd of 20,000-25,000 would be required to make the match viable.

"If you have to make ticket prices $90 or $100, you're not going to get the people to do it. We'll see what the final figures cost and if there are three teams involved, then that shares the travel costs."

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- The Dominion Post

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