Phoenix chairman backs downsized football tour

ON POINT: Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison was happy with the Football United Tour.
ON POINT: Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison was happy with the Football United Tour.

If the Football United Tour is to be repeated, it is likely to feature one English Premier League team, not two.

Wellington Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison, who dug into his own pockets to fund the visit of Newcastle and West Ham, was a satisfied man yesterday as the multi-million dollar stars flew out of town.

While he would have liked ''a couple of thousand'' more fans in the stands in Wellington and Auckland, the club's Welnix ownership consortium would ''ballpark break even'' from the four-game, four-team tournament.

Saturday's double-header at Westpac Stadium attracted 30,968, while 19,183 attended Eden Park and 9506 Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.

''We'll go through a bit of a recce on the whole thing and reconcile all the numbers,'' Morrison said.

''For sure we'd consider [a repeat]. I think it's unlikely we'd bring two teams out again, it's just a big exercise and it puts pressure not just on the club but in terms of the financials with the fans and so on.

"We're not going to rush into any decisions, we'll let the dust settle.''

It would be a week or so before the Phoenix could properly assess the financial ins and outs, including how many viewers had shelled out to watch on Sky pay-per-view.

But Morrison was proud of the feel-good atmosphere that had been created and the wider economic benefit for Wellington.

''I think we had the right range of ticket pricing, we certainly had the quality of product,'' Morrison said.

''I was really happy with the whole buzz around Wellington and a lot of people came into town so that side of it was fantastic. A couple of thousand more in Wellington and Auckland probably would have done the trick but we'll be ballpark break even.''

Coaches and players from all four teams spoke glowingly about the worth of the tour.

The question for Welnix is which teams to target next.

The likes of EPL giants Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are all pipe dreams.

''It is a very costly exercise,'' Morrison said.

''We're not making a profit on this - it was about what do we need to cover these costs. The big teams, next year, in a New Zealand context, eliminate themselves because to get them out here the ticket prices are going to be too high. We don't have the population bases and we don't really have the stadia.

"You bring out a big side then you really need to be playing them in Sydney at ANZ Stadium or the Melbourne Cricket Ground. If you're going to bring out someone big then people like [New Zealand] Major Events have to be involved.''

Despite suffering two surprise losses against A-League opponents, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce gave a cautious thumbs up when asked if he would be keen for a re-run.

''Coming this far - I think probably yes if it's the right time and we get looked after as well as we've got looked after this time,'' Allardyce said.

''We've been out and about amongst the people and really enjoyed that but from a professional point of view, we've left ourselves short a little bit.''

Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliott described the tour as ''first class.''

''It's been brilliant. [Saturday's] game says it all - it was such a high intensity game. It's always good to see another part of the world and I know we're travelling a long way but the sports scientists and doctors made it a lot easier for us.

"I'm all for going around the world and seeing different countries."

The Dominion Post