Phoenix, All Whites eye AMI stadium

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 29/06/2012

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Christchurch could be in for a spring football extravaganza with New Zealand Football seriously considering hosting an All Whites World Cup game in the city and the Wellington Phoenix almost certain to play a pre-season match at the new AMI Stadium.

The Phoenix are tipped to play the Central Coast Mariners at the Addington venue in September.

New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh said yesterday there would be "a lot of pluses" around having the All Whites play one of their three Oceania confederation World Cup qualifying matches in Christchurch.

Venues are yet to be confirmed for the All Whites three home games against the Solomon Islands (September 11), Tahiti (October 16) and New Caledonia (March 22).

McKavanagh said NZF had had expressions of interest from all the stadium operators in New Zealand's main centres – Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin.

A final decision will be made by the end of July.

But Christchurch appears to have a good chance.

McKavanagh said NZF "would love to go down to Christchurch" to give back something to the city which had "a hard run in the last couple of years" since the Canterbury earthquakes.

He said it would be great to give All Whites with Christchurch connections, "such as Ryan [Nelsen]", an opportunity to play in front of their own families, friends and fans.

"There are a lot of pluses around a game in Christchurch."

McKavanagh said AMI Stadium might have "a temporary feel to some aspects of it" but it looked to be a "fantastic environment" for a sports ground and "Cantabrians are a great crowd for New Zealand sports teams to play in front of".

A Christchurch Stadium Trust official confirmed there had been interest in hosting a World Cup game.

McKavanagh said various factors would be taken into account before finalising host venues, including climate.

"We are certainly aware that climatic conditions can be an advantage or a disadvantage to some teams."

The All Whites discovered that in Honiara to their cost this month where they battled searing heat and humidity at the Oceania Nations Cup and lost 2-0 in the semifinals to New Caledonia, which cost them a place at the 2013 Confederations Cup finals.

But other issues, including "All Black tests around that time" would also have a bearing on the final decision, McKavanagh said.

Meanwhile, Vbase general manager Russell Kenny said the Addington stadium operators were "definitely in negotiations with the Phoenix" about bringing the Central Coast Mariners game here.

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"But we can't give 100 per cent confirmation right now."

Kenny said Vbase were also keen to stage an A-League regular-season game in Christchurch in the 2013-14 season after "having two great games at the old AMI Stadium" where the Phoenix played Adelaide United twice in 2010 before crowds of 19,000 and 14,000.

"The Phoenix are wanting to come back to support Christchurch without a doubt," Kenny said.

But it's unlikely to be in the 2012-13 A-League campaign. The Phoenix are contractually bound to host 12 home games at Wellington's Westpac Stadium and are set to return to Eden Park where they drew more than 20,000 fans for a 1-1 draw with Adelaide last November.

- The Press

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