Wellington Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan has challenged football fans to start turning up to A-League games in Wellington or risk losing more home matches to other parts of the country.
The Phoenix have averaged crowds of about 6500 in their eight matches at Westpac Stadium this year, well below the average needed to break even, and Morgan said other cities are keen to step in and host games.
"Our average crowd figure this year has been 6,600, Newcastle is 11,500. So you can see the gap is pretty big. Our last game we only had 3,800 people. We're third in the league, we have an absolutely fabulous team," he told Radio Sport this morning.
Wellington made a lot of noise about losing the Phoenix before he and six other Wellington business leaders took over the team from Terry Serepisos last year - and now Morgan wants fans to show their support and help the club break even.
"Wellington made a hell of a noise about losing the Phoenix and some of us responded and all I'm saying is it's a two-way street. We have to get this thing in a break even position.
"We must average at least 10,000 a match. There is no way one can expect us to get the type of crowds the Melbourne Victory does, they're averaging 23,000 a match. I don't think we're being unrealistic.
"We're getting bigger crowds than the (Wellington) Lions rugby team is and at times we've had remarkably bigger crowds than the Hurricanes as well. But it's just not consistent, it's patchy."
Morgan took to Twitter on Sunday to ask fans how they can improve the crowd situation, suggesting other cities are keen to host games.
"To Phoenix fans; guys we have to get home crowds up, we're the cheapest tickets in the League & smallest crowd. Thinking caps on people!," he wrote.
When someone suggested high ticket prices, Morgan hit back.
"Stop moaning about ticket prices, we're cheapest in League. Biggest game on earth, biggest NZ participation sport, no excuse #phoenixcrowds," he wrote.
Morgan said he wants 15,000 at every game and is confident it can be achieved if they take the team to other parts of the country. However `home' games outside of Wellington have produced mixed crowd numbers this season.
More than 20,000 fans turned up to Eden Park in November when the Phoenix drew with Adelaide United on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the side's biggest home crowd of the season, while a midweek match against defending champions Brisbane pulled only 4600 at Dunedin's new Forsyth Barr Stadium. A pre-season clash at the same ground attracted more than 15,000 people.
The Phoenix have four home games remaining at Westpac Stadium during the regular season, starting with Sunday's match against the Melbourne Heart.
- HERALD ONLINE/NEWSTALK ZB