Soccer: NZ Soccer willing to rescue 'embarrassing' Knights

By Daniel Gilhooly

New Zealand Soccer (NZS) is willing to help the Football Federation Australia (FFA) run the beleaguered New Zealand Knights, if only to save face for the sport in this country.

Speculation is mounting that the FFA snatch back ownership of the Knights' licence with five weeks remaining in the A-League season, as they did with the Perth franchise in March.

The Sydney Morning Herald today said the FFA's patience with the ownership and direction of the under-performing Knights had run out. It would make its move to give potential new owners as much time as possible to bid for the franchise next season.

NZS chief executive Graham Seatter had no idea when or if the FFA would claim back the licence but confirmed he had been asked less than a week ago if NZS would be prepared to assist in the running of the club until their final round match on January 21.

"Why wouldn't we?" Seatter told NZPA.

"At the end of the day it would be an embarrassment if a New Zealand team defaulted at the end of that competition.

"We're committed to make sure that doesn't happen."

Knights management were unavailable for comment this morning.

Since their inception last year, the Knights have been constantly criticised for selecting overseas players ahead of New Zealand talent.

They have won just three, drawn six and lost 28 of their 37 matches since the A-League commenced last year, while their home crowds are easily the smallest of the eight teams.

The Herald reported the Knights had run up debts of more than A$600,000 ($690,528) this season and that those losses will be worn by owners Brian Katzen, Anthony Lee and Maurice Cox.

The FFA would take over the licence debt-free -- making it more attractive to potential buyers -- and would cover all the costs of running the team for the rest of the season.

FFA chairman Frank Lowy told the newspaper recently that the governing body continued to support the concept of a New Zealand-based team in the A-League, despite the club's many failures on and off the field.

Seatter, who returned today from the world club championships in Tokyo, was ready for the FFA to announce the changeover at any moment.

"It could happen at a day's notice or it might take a month," he said.

"There are some very complicated issues being dealt with, none of which I know anything about or want to know anything about because it's nothing to do with us.

"The licence sits with the Knights at the moment. The FFA are talking about taking the licence back. They would hold it for the balance of the season and we would simply support them."

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert would be the obvious candidate to take over the coaching reins from Barry Simmonds, who replaced another Englishman, Paul Nevin, four weeks ago.

The situation mirrors that of the Perth Glory, whose owners were relieved of the licence by the FFA nine months ago.

The FFA has maintained ownership since, appointing all the key management for this season, while a succession of potential new owners have failed in their takeover bids for a club who lie seventh on the eight-team table.

- NZPA

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