The Football United tour is over, and unless you are Sam Allardyce it can probably be marked as somewhere in between a pass mark and a runaway success.
Wellington yesterday was a sea of black & white and claret & blue set to a back-drop of yellow & black. The accents varied, and this included Australian accents; a very cosmopolitan and colourful set-up.
But ensuring this was not a financial failure was a key factor with this bold venture. Will it work again, and what lessons were learnt?
From all accounts the tour broke even, and then possibly a bit more. But, despite what those complaining about Pay Per View may have you believe, this was not about making a profit, it was about doing something bold, and making sure it wasn’t a financial flop.
And the footballing community got behind it too. Those scarfs featuring the logos of the four teams involved literally sold in their thousands. And at $40 for a pretty small scarf it showed the fans wanted it to succeed, as well as getting their piece of history.
This then flowed on to the atmosphere at the ground, and around downtown Wellington over the weekend. It is always risky comparing types of atmosphere around sporting events but the feeling here was more cosmopolitan than those All Whites World Cup qualifiers, more jovial than an All Blacks test, and not as silly as at the Sevens. Probably the closest comparison would be the 2005 Lions Tour.
It also gave the Wellington Phoenix profile. As the final whistle blew at Eden Park a rival Premier League twitter account popped up and said “West Ham have just lost to some team I never knew existed”
As outlined last week, this venture involved a massive amount of planning and attention to detail. For example the West Ham contingent included five Media Liaison people. And they all flew Business Class, with a bed etc. Mind you, being a West Ham Liaison officer at the moment would not be a job for the faint hearted.
And then there were all the activities and promotions around the three cities; open training runs, walkabouts, evenings with local Tourism agencies; it was seven days of well-oiled Expo-like activities. Were the Phoenix to do this again they would probably find hiring an events management firm for assistance would be worth it.
As for the open training runs; the players loved it. And they loved it because it was so different from how they operate during the season. Newcastle’s training ground, for example, is specifically designed so that no photographers or scouts can get a view of the park, and that those E-Bay autograph seekers don’t get to trough.
As for the double header itself, there was a lot to like. It was a very good day for showcasing the A-League internationally, and the adoption of Merrick’s passing style at the Phoenix now looks to be complete. The sight of the three fan zones was unique and worked really well.
But the real stars of the show were the West Ham fans who jumped up and down and sang their guts out for their side for 90 minutes. And despite watching their side put in a wretched performance they proceeded to jump up and down and sing their guts out for their side all through the second match.
Compare and contrast.
The only issue was the travel vs number of games aspect. Flying around the world and back within a week for two games is a big ask, and possibly might need some tweaking if this venture is to work again.
The obvious suggestion would be to add another round of games, but Premier League teams do not like to play each other in pre-season matches which is something people overlooked every time people raised the “Why don’t Newcastle and West Ham play each other?” question. A more logical work-around would be to add a match in Asia or Australia at either end of the New Zealand matches.
An example of the demands with a trip like this is what happens next for these sides. Both Newcastle and West Ham move to Germany. Newcastle plays again this Wednesday.