Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Best result for the Phoenix, fans and FFA

Marco Rojas. Photo / Getty Images
Marco Rojas. Photo / Getty Images

The Wellington Phoenix could one day become almost as recognisable as the Warriors, and thankfully now they have been given the chance.

Months of precarious negotiations concluded on Friday, with the Football Federation Australia granting the Phoenix a conditional 10-year licence. It was the sensible outcome, when for a while it felt like the FFA were losing the plot.

Were they really going to abandon their third-biggest market (after Sydney and Melbourne) on a whim?

The Phoenix have huge potential. It often seems to be forgotten they have been in existence only since 2007. That's not long in the life of a sports franchise.

The Warriors were close to falling over after a similar period, but no one would contemplate that now.

The Phoenix have always been a progressive club. Remember when David Beckham and the LA Galaxy came to Wellington? They've also brought out Boca Juniors, Newcastle United and West Ham United and helped spread the A-League gospel in China, India and Fiji.

If there was no Phoenix, there may have been no Marco Rojas or Shane Smeltz in the A-League, and they've also enhanced the league with class imports such as Paul Ifill and Roly Bonevacia. Fan group Yellow Fever have also added considerable colour.

The Phoenix have achieved reasonable success on the field (four finals appearances in the last six years), and will only get better with their academy system in place and a reserve squad established in the ASB Premiership.

Crowds aren't as bad as the FFA have painted. Despite no local derbies, and almost no away fans, the Phoenix have achieved the league's second-highest growth rate in attendance in the last three years and attract the highest crowds on a per-capita basis.

Immigration patterns mean football will only get more popular in New Zealand, and an A-League title (or even an appearance in the final) would be a massive kick-start.

And remember the Phoenix have been playing in a stadium that is far from perfect. In fact, it's probably one of the worst venues in the A-League in terms of being fit for purpose.

The Phoenix are stable. Maybe their Welnix ownership can be a bit conservative but they run a good business. The FFA surely don't need to be reminded about their ill-fated ventures with the North Queensland Fury or Gold Coast United, or the fact the Newcastle Jets had to be bailed out and Brisbane Roar have had financial issues this year.

- Herald on Sunday

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