The Wellington Phoenix have addressed speculation that they are considering selling a large stake in the club to a Southwest Sydney consortium, after reports suggested New Zealand's only fully professional football club could be heading across the Tasman.
Yesterday, News Corp Australia reported that a memorandum of understanding had been agreed between the two parties. The sale would see the club become the third A-league side based in Sydney.
Southwest Sydney would reportedly host the majority of home games under the hybrid model, though some matches would still be played in Wellington. The team would play in black and white, but would don the yellow and black Phoenix strip for matches at Westpac Stadium. However, Football Federation Australia (FFA) had the power to block any potential merger.
FFA chief executive David Gallop confirmed with AAP that he held a meeting with Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison and director of the Southwest Sydney expansion bid, Gino Mirra, on Friday.
Read more: Exclusive: Wellington Phoenix not for sale
But today the Phoenix released a statement refuting the claims.
"Media outlets have reported all manner of approaches to and outcomes for the Phoenix. Some of the approaches are real but the majority are imagined," the statement said."
"With reportedly interest from ten groups for two expansion teams there is plenty of scope for speculation.
"As the club has previously disclosed, the Phoenix have had discussions with parties interested in participating in the expansion of the A League, as well as the future of the A League and it should come as no surprise that continues to be the case.
"Welnix as the owners have consistently maintained that they are open to external investors who could bring capital and players to the club as well as providing professional development pathways for the players from New Zealand.
"Although there are currently potential options that are worth exploring what is certain, despite the leaky nature of the industry, is the Phoenix will not conduct any of those discussions via the media.
"The speculation is hugely disappointing and clearly upsetting for fans and sponsors but unfortunately the club cannot control it."
"We can reiterate however, as stated by the Chairman Rob Morrison recently, that the club is not looking to sell its licence."
"Of more immediate concern to the club is the state of the A League.
"With double digit falls in viewership levels, falling crowd numbers and all clubs losing money there has to be a material change to the construct of the League.
"The best case scenario for the A League clubs, including the Phoenix, is the creation of a truly independent A League with new management and a distribution of revenues that reflect the way they are generated.
"The needed structural changes will not happen in the short term but it is clearly imperative that decisive action is taken now by the FFA ahead of the 18/19 season to halt the decline in the Leagues metrics. Tinkering around the edges with marquee funds and the like is not sufficient."