Wellington Phoenix spread fixtures net wider

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2012
Phoenix
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
NOBODY HOME: The Phoenix are averaging crowds of 8117 after five home games.

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The Wellington Phoenix will take more home games on the road next season, regardless of whether Westpac Stadium crowds improve in this campaign.

The sixth-placed Phoenix are averaging crowds of 8117 after five home games this season but need at least 10,000 through the gates to break even.

Chairman Rob Morrison also yesterday acknowledged that the Phoenix - who lost to a last-placed and under-strength Sydney FC side at home last Sunday - needed to improve their product on the field.

The Phoenix are playing A-League games at Auckland's Eden Park (February 2) and Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium (March 3) this season, and Morrison said that number would increase next season and beyond.

"I think we would probably look to increase the number of away games by one or two over the next couple of years," Morrison said.

"We're not talking about four or five straight away, at all, we'll just sort of see how that works and what the appetite is.

"Even if the numbers are up here, I think we would still take more games on the road.

"There's no threat there, it's just the practical reality is, it does make economic sense for us to play some games away from Wellington because there are other centres that want to watch. On more of a one-off basis, you can get some really good crowds."

A crowd of 20,078 watched the Phoenix play Adelaide United at Eden Park last year and Christchurch has had turnouts of 19,258 and 14,108.

Morrison stopped short of calling Sunday's crowd of 7375 disappointing.

He said it was obvious the club had a core following of 5000 but fairweather fans were not currently attracted to the team.

"You have to have a product that is price-competitive and we think we do. We've got to have a product that's entertaining and we have to work at that.

"Our aim is definitely not to play dour football. We want an entertaining product because we recognise we've got a core group of supporters, but there's another group over and above that who are more interested in the entertainment."

Morrison expected crowds to improve after Christmas, provided the Phoenix were playing better football and were in the hunt for the playoffs.

The Phoenix are also interested in lining up an off-season game against an English Premier League side.

Manchester United will play the A-League All Stars in Sydney in July next year and although Morrison admitted there was "probably no probability" of attracting the Red Devils to New Zealand, a lesser club could be more realistic.

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"We've done quite a bit of work on looking at options in terms of either the Phoenix going to Asia to play EPL sides when they're in Asia, or attracting EPL sides down here."

The likes of Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool have toured Asia as part of their pre-season preparations, and Morrison said the Phoenix had made contact with various EPL clubs and Asian football associations.

"And there's always interest but banging all the detail together and working out financial packages, that's a different matter."

The Phoenix - who are away to second-placed Adelaide on Sunday - are also working on signing a replacement for striker Mirjan Pavlovic and plan to expand their academy across New Zealand.

- The Dominion Post

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