The Wellington City Council and the Phoenix have joined forces and are close to securing an agreement to bring two high-profile English Premier League clubs to New Zealand this year.
Although multi-layered contractual agreements are yet to be reached, Fairfax Media understands West Ham United and Newcastle are close to being lured here, possibly for a quad tournament also involving another A-League club, the Brisbane Roar, in July. The deal could be confirmed within the next week.
The proposed fixtures, which could be staged in Wellington with possibly one in Auckland, would be played in the Premier League's pre-season. The A-League finishes in late April and the World Cup ends on July 13, meaning some international players could be excluded.
"There's a whole lot of contracts both between ourselves and the Phoenix and two Premier League clubs but they have not been finalised," Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown told the Star-Times yesterday.
"I'm not in a position to confirm anything as we have yet to finalise our agreement, but Wellington City is excited about the prospect of English Premier League action.
"All I can say is I'm positive about the prospect of good football being played in the capital, but we haven't confirmed any contract yet."
West Ham United - who feature All Whites captain Winston Reid - and Newcastle would be the first Premier League clubs to play in New Zealand for 28 years. Everton were here at the end of 1986.
The pulling power of Premier League teams Down Under cannot be overstated. More than 95,000 fans attended when the Melbourne Victory hosted Liverpool last year. An A-League All Stars team also faced off against EPL giants Manchester United in front of 83,000 supporters.
The Phoenix are no strangers to hosting high-profile matches in Wellington, having enticed David Beckham's LA Galaxy to the capital in late 2007, losing 4-1. The Phoenix fared better against Argentina's famous Boca Juniors in 2010, pulling off a surprising 2-1 win.
- Sunday Star Times
How will the Phoenix go in 2013-14?Related story: Wellington Phoenix off-season scorecard