Soccer: TV deal gets Phoenix financial reprieve

By Michael Burgess

Phoenix Chairman Rob Morrison. Photo ./ Getty Images
Phoenix Chairman Rob Morrison. Photo ./ Getty Images

The massive new A-League broadcasting deal will be a "financial game changer" for the Phoenix, allowing them to put their financial woes behind them.

Gareth Morgan, Rob Morrison and the rest of the Welnix consortium aren't short of a dollar - but they won't have to spend any money on salaries next season, with that expense fully covered by the league.

The broadcasting deal, which was confirmed last week, is worth A$160 million ($203 million) over four years, representing a 100 per cent increase on the previous agreement. It reflects the growth of the sport, with viewership figures having almost tripled since 2006, and will see free-to-air games every week. As a consequence of the windfall, the entire salary cap (currently A$2.5 million; $3.17 million) - which comprises the biggest single expense for the Phoenix - will be paid out of league coffers.

"Being self-sustaining was a core part of our future plans and this will certainly help accelerate it," says Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison.

"Crowds are still the most vital element for us but we now expect to break even next season. It also means we can put more money into off-field investment, to build a solid base for the club."

Morrison says the club want to increase the size of their school of excellence from eight to 15 players and they will also invest more heavily in sports science, academy coaches and a refurbishment of training facilities. However, despite the commercial success of the Alessandro Del Piero move to Sydney there are no plans to deviate from the club's 'sustainable and sensible spending' policy.

"We are always going to live within our means - that won't change," says Morrison. "You won't see a Del Piero deal here because we don't believe that is the best way to guarantee success in the long-term. Ultimately, we want to develop most of our own players and that should be possible given all of the young talent around New Zealand."

On another note, the club has also identified fitness as a major short-term goal: "We want to lift the overall fitness standard and be the fittest squad in the league," he says. "Look at Manchester United; year in, year out they are one of, if not the, fittest team in the Premier League and that's why they always finish every game strongly and have those famous last-minute finishes."

Despite the stuttering start to the season, Morrison says there is still a "strong expectation of a high finals finish, certainly in the top four".

He says the owners recognise that the A-League is a more difficult proposition this year, as teams have got better.

"We've improved our team but so have all the other clubs," says Morrison. "Still, we are expecting to make it [the play-offs]".

Late last night the Phoenix faced Perth Glory, one of the A-League clubs bidding to persuade David Beckham to bring his talents to Australasia. The Phoenix have crossed the Tasman for five of their last seven matches and this game represents the longest away trip (5257 kilometres) in any league in the world. It has traditionally been close between these two teams - they share seven wins each (three draws) in their A-League clashes and their last meeting saw the Glory knock the Phoenix out of the 2011-12 playoffs (3-2 after extra time).

- Herald on Sunday

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