When the Hawke's Bay United franchise kicked off its 2018-19 campaign it had secured 28 sponsors, of which 15 were cash contributors while others provided goods and services such as food to save costs.

"At the moment we have between $40,000 to $50,000," says board deputy chairman Andrew Huxford, revealing the Thirsty Whale-sponsored franchise has incrementally increased its sponsorship dollars over the past few seasons.

"The biggest impact for us isn't necessarily our sponsorship although the sponsorship money is higher than what we've got in," says Huxford, adding the biggest impact is funds required as the season runs it course.

Money, he says, has become more difficult to obtain than in the past probably because fewer people are gambling.


Board chairwoman Paula Walker stresses the challenge is harder because more codes have entered a confined catchment area to chase that elusive dollar.

Franchise general manager operations Shane McKenzie says a cursory glance around the province shows other codes' flagship teams, such as Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby and Taylor Corporation Hawks basketball, have a branding that resonates with the public.

"We want young kids in Hawke's Bay, who are playing with the round ball, to aspire to wear the black-and-white stripes for Hawke's Bay United because it's special for the region so that's why we're all in it," says McKenzie.

Central Football, the parent body administering the amateur body, has lent money in the past and donates "3 to 5 per cent" towards its budget but that benefit doesn't extend to approaching its affiliate regions — Manawatu, New Plymouth, Whanganui, Levin and Gisborne — to back the franchise because statutes limit that to Bay member clubs.

Non-Bay affiliates have questioned and objected to Central Football injecting capital into Bay United over the years.

"We have borrowed from them [Central Football] in the past but we cannot borrow from them again although we receive a donation from them — which is shown in our records and theirs — but it's not substantial to running the costs of the national league," she says.

However, Walker emphasises the rapport with Central Football is useful in mustering support from other regions but that doesn't extend to a financial one.

Two games have been staged in Palmerston North to market the brand to the amateur catchment area but there won't be any this summer due to costs.


With the presence of Wairarapa United players recently should Bay United approach stalwart Phil Keinzley for some support?

Walker says creating a pathway for Bay youth talent is its mission statement, so to go outside its catchment area offers its own challenges.

"There may be financial benefits but there's also risks around 'This is our identity here and we need to really focus on our member clubs to get behind them and they need to get behind us'."

Huxford says the franchise receives a hard time for recruiting players from outside the province and also those who other clubs bring from overseas and have played for a winter league season.

"We try to do everything we can do [to recruit regional players] and remain competitive in the league."

McKenzie says the franchise team has the highest number of representative players this season than it has ever had.

He says the Birhanu Taye-captained Bay United had shown a lot of character to register their first win this summer, 4-0 over Waitakere United in Napier on Sunday, after they had been informed of where the franchise's status in a meeting before the game.