By Scott MacLean
Are you selling or not? That’s the seemingly simple question from fans that Phoenix owners Welnix seem incapable of answering.
There’s no denying that Rob Morrison and co are stuck between a rock and a hard place. One is the looming end of the Phoenix’s current A-League licence in 2020, the other being the concerted effort by the media led by the official mouthpiece of the Football Federation Australia – otherwise known as Fox Sports – to have them thrown out of the league anyway.
There’s also no hiding that the Phoenix have struggled on the field in recent years and not even sniffed making the top-six playoffs, but it’s worth remembering that despite last year’s disaster they still didn’t finish bottom (hello Central Coast), and are one of only two teams in the league that hasn’t at some point been bailed out by the governing body. The Mariners are an even worse basket case than whatever the Nix are accused of being, and let’s not forget those other well-run A-League clubs of the past Gold Coast and North Queensland.
The thing is that Welnix are made up of astute businessmen. When the latest round of A-League expansion was announced they held a relatively valuable piece; an existing licence in an environment where it seems obvious that an Australian-based team will get a term longer than what the Phoenix could realistically hope for. Given their investment it makes sense to cast around, see who’s interested, and whether the FFA would be open to the idea (presumably as long as they get a cut of course). And as the owner of this website has pointed out, Welnix earlier this year sold its ownership share of the Hurricanes; only they can tell you what they did with that money but the dots seem easy to join.
If Welnix are looking to sell, recoup their investment, and put New Zealand’s only full-time professional football club to sleep then that’s their (highly unpopular) prerogative. The gap between the A-League haves and have nots is ever widening – notwithstanding the Newcastle Jets this season – whether its big-city living, financial muscle, or climate (spend two hours at a wet, cold, and miserable Martin Luckie Park?) and its difficult for Welnix to compete. The margin for error like a poor managerial hire or player signing is that much smaller and potentially crippling.
What’s the alternative? It’s highly unlikely they’ll meet the much-talked about metrics to trigger the extension so it’s either benevolence on the part of the FFA or the hope of an-independent A-League.
Morrison has so far denied they’re looking to sell, which may of course be completely correct. But there seems to be far too many specifics coming out of the media and surely the Aussies aren’t that inventive with stories; that in turn leads to the old adage of where there’s smoke there’s fire. If Welnix have deployed the mirrors to hide reality then that’s poor and at worse disgraceful. The fans – whether they’re casual ones like me or diehards like the Yellow Fever – who have brought tickets to games, bought merchandise, and backed the team through the bad and good deserve better.
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