Strikers in hunt for Wellington’s $6 million A-League licence

Wellington Phoenix have set a $6 million asking price for their A-League licence, with Brisbane Strikers revealing they have been in long-standing negotiations over replacing them in the competition next season.

Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison and general manager David Dome have been in intermittent talks for over a year with the former NSL champions, whilst also fielding interest from Sydney A-League aspirants Southern Expansion and South West Sydney Football Club inc (SWSFC), headed up by finance broker Gino Marra.

South Melbourne also revealed this week that they had first discussed a Phoenix buyout 11 months back, but rejected the terms of the deal.

South bid chief Bill Papastergiadis wrote to Morrison three days ago seeking to re-start negotiations amid intense speculation over the future of Phoenix, whose dire metrics have led FFA to threaten not to renew their 10-year licence beyond the end of next season.

If Phoenix can agree terms with the Strikers, or another of the interested parties, it would have to be ratified by FFA, who have earmarked two new teams for entry in 2019-2020.

Phoenix management have insisted they are not actively attempting to sell the club, but are simply “exploring their options”.

But Strikers chairman Bruce Atterton-Evans revealed on Friday that “talks are ongoing”, whilst declining to divulge any of the detail of the negotiations.

It’s understood the Strikers, who view $5 million as a more realistic top-end asking price from the seemingly doomed franchise, want to make a stand-alone purchase, whilst the Phoenix are seeking to maintain a footprint in the form of team colours, or a percentage of ownership.

“We’re working towards everything but I’d prefer not to comment beyond that,” Atterton-Evans said.

“I can say that talks are ongoing. We feel that a second team in Brisbane would benefit the league and hopefully help rejuvenate Brisbane Roar.”

Former Roar and Gold Coast United coach Miron Bleiberg, who is affiliated with the Strikers bid, said the club had been ahead of the curve in their approach to Wellington.

“We had the idea long before anybody in talking to New Zealand about buying their licence,” Bleiberg said.

“Back then it didn’t suit them and it wasn’t the right time. If you’re talking about a chess game we were three steps ahead of anybody.

“Since then there’s been talk about expansion and everybody else has jumped onto the bandwagon.

“Now they’ve had a few more approaches - but ours still stands. They know we’re still interested.

“Obviously FFA would have the final say, and if a deal was agreed the buying party would have to benefit the competition and the expansion process.”

Papastergiadis, meanwhile, confirmed that Morrison and Dome had visited him in Melbourne last year seeking to offload 25 per cent of the club.

“They wanted to sell that part ownership to us for $1.5 million,” he explained.

“The enticement for us was to play the youth league and women’s league in Melbourne full-time with our colours, but still having some form of the Wellington brand.

“They would also have played some home games at South. But that didn’t work for us.

“We didn’t want to lose our identity and heritage.

“It seems now though that they are prepared to off-load the whole lot.

“I’ve written to them expressing our interest in re-starting the conversation. They are clearly on the market. I’m still waiting to hear back.”

The Phoenix have since denied the claims.

Morrison, who is thought to prefer a possible merger, said in a club statement last week: “There are a number of parties interested (in joining the A-League) and these parties have been talking to a number of clubs around A-League expansion and licences.

“Wellington has not been immune to this and it’s only appropriate that as a club we keep abreast of all possible options going around the clubs.”

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4 min read
Published 27 April 2018 at 11:47am
By Dave Lewis