Beckham flop: Two top execs quit

By Wayne Thompson

Two senior Auckland Regional Council executives quit yesterday after the David Beckham soccer match fiasco in which the council-owned Mt Smart Stadium lost $1.79 million.

Parks general manager Lance Vervoort and Mt Smart Stadium group manager John Lynch were on extended leave following an internal review into the way last December's LA Galaxy match was planned and managed.

ARC chairman Mike Lee also called in the Auditor-General to investigate what went wrong when the stadium departed from its normal role as venue operator - charging a fee - to act also as event promoter and underwriter.

The two executives wrote a confidential report to councillors last April recommending the soccer match, between Beckham's LA Galaxy and an "all-star" Oceania team.

The game, which drew only 16,600 people instead of the 20,000, needed to break even.

Yesterday, ARC chief executive Peter Winder told staff he had accepted the resignations of both men.

Neither he nor Mr Lee would comment further about the resignations.

The Auditor-General's report is expected to be released next month.

Last night, Mr Vervoort and Mr Lynch would not comment on the game.

"It's time for me to move on," said Mr Vervoort, 46, who has been with the ARC for 15 years - the last nine running the parks department, which has a staff of 137.

Mr Lynch, 43, said he was "feeling a bit homesick" for a family lifestyle in Palmerston North where he headed the redevelopment of the Arena Manawatu sports complex before taking on the Mt Smart role two years ago.

Last month, Mr Lee said the future of Mt Smart Stadium as a business unit in the parks network was being reviewed.

The stadium has a $24.2 million debt - mostly incurred by capital works, such as the East Stand. In the half year to January 31, the stadium's earnings were $1.45 million in the red. In the previous seven years, earnings ranged from $874,000 to $1.59 million.

Records given to the Herald show the Auckland City Council also played a role in the event.

City officials secured $80,000 in cash sponsorship and $70,000 in services, and the council's final contribution was $128,000.

Although a financial flop, the event is credited with helping to raise New Zealand's international profile.

- NZ Herald

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