Bitterly disappointed Auckland City chairman Ivan Vuksich is counting the cost of the sweeping changes made to ensure the New Zealand Football Championship's survival.
As expected, New Zealand Football yesterday confirmed the fifth Southern Trust-sponsored NZFC will be played over two, rather than three, rounds and the end-of-season play-offs will now involve four teams with the first round played home and away.
While his club has agreed to the changes, Vuksich said bluntly: "I feel shafted. What they have done is very unfair but, at the end of the day, we need a league and have to move forward."
City had 160,000 full colour posters ready for distribution in the Herald but these are now "useless" given the re-jigged draw.
"We have blown $22,000 in producing the poster," said Vuksich. "I contacted New Zealand Football two weeks ago before we had it printed and was assured there wouldn't be any changes. Now we are facing a bill of between $7000-$10,000 to accommodate the new draw.
"Like other clubs, we are battling to meet our commitments. There is a perception out there that the Auckland clubs are better off than the rest.
"That's simply not true. We have no more money than any other club and we, like Waitakere, have the added expense of having to play in the O-League. We have also spent a considerable amount of time and money on upgrading our pitch at Kiwitea St and now find we are likely to have to go and play Waikato at a ground in Ngaruawahia. That's lowering the standards this competition set."
League manager Glyn Taylor inspected Centennial Park this week and has given a provisional stamp of approval.
Taylor is in the process of making sweeping changes to the draw.
The first round is now set to be split over two weekends.
Auckland City will host Otago United and Team Wellington will be at home to Waitakere United on November 9. On November 15, Hawkes Bay will play Waikato and Canterbury will be at home to YoungHeart Manawatu.
In other early-season changes, Auckland City and Waitakere will now play their first round O-League fixture at Kiwitea St on November 2. Waitakere will then play the Wellington Phoenix on November 15 and, a week later at Trusts Stadium, the Vanuatu club side Port Vila Sharks in their second O-League game.
Plans to play Auckland and Waitakere as a midweek NZFC fixture on November 26 have been scrapped as have other scheduled midweek games.
Waitakere will play Hawkes Bay at home on November 29 before their trip to the Fifa World Club Cup in Japan.
The NZFC grand final is now scheduled for April 5 with the last of the regular season games to be played on February 28.
Taylor hopes to have the new draw ready next week.