Way forward is now likely for Waikato FC

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012

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Waikato FC aim to re-apply for a Premiership licence after breakthrough talks with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Football Federation.

The future for the struggling franchise now looks a little brighter after a meeting this week renewed a promising partnership between the two parties, who have in the past tried and failed to form a working relationship.

New Zealand Football has granted Waikato an extension on the December 16 deadline to re-apply for a three-year licence due to plans now in place for significant changes in the franchise's future governance model in partnership with the federation.

Waikato FC chairman Brendon Coker said he was delighted the meeting produced a consensus on the importance of Waikato's future presence in the national league competition.

"We cannot comment on the detail at this point but we have a shared vision on the best means of strengthening national league football in the Waikato and are now looking at developing a new model to take the game forward," Coker said.

The franchise may look to borrow aspects of the Canterbury United model, which sees that club run by Mainland Football, while a move to introduce a $2 per player levy for the region might also be floated.

Monday night's meeting to discuss Waikato FC's current situation and possible re-application drew less than 20 people and before a late development that saw input from the federation, the future of the franchise was in doubt.

Waikato have been part of the national league since 2004 but have in recent seasons seen dwindling numbers of administrators, volunteer helpers, sponsors and matchday gate receipts.

The franchise is debt-free but has few assets or income from sponsorship money, is hugely reliant on community trust and gaming machine funding and its hard-working volunteers are facing burnout after years of toil for little reward.

A New Zealand team winning the O-League is also hugely beneficial for the other ASB Premiership franchises, with approximately $30,000 handed out to the other clubs as part of the Fifa competition spoils.

It's understood the Premiership may grow from eight to 10 teams for the next three seasons, with two Auckland-based applications and one apiece from Wairarapa and Nelson making submissions for entry last year.

The Waikato FC board this week sacked coach Declan Edge two-thirds of the way through his two-year contract after his side lost their opening four matches of the 201-/13 Premiership.

Edge has been replaced by Mark Cossey.

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