Wellington to join A-League next season

March 18, 2007

A team from Wellington will join Australian soccer's A-League after official confirmation from Football Federation Australia (FFA).

Statements from New Zealand Soccer and Football Federation Australia (FFS) confirmed that a Wellington consortium had been granted a three-year licence to participate in the competition starting from 2007/08.

"We are now satisfied that New Zealand Soccer and the Wellington-based consortium have the necessary financial capital and business plans to establish a viable football club in the New Zealand capital," FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said in a statement.

"The club can now officially begin the process of recruiting the coaching and playing staff that form the only fully professional football team in the region and continue the long standing trans-Tasman rivalry with the other seven Australian-based clubs."

The Wellington side comes into the A-League after the licence for the New Zealand Knights was revoked.

Another consortium from far north Queensland had shown interest in filling the breach but FFA's preferred option was New Zealand, and the Townsville-based consortium has announced withdrawal of its submission.

NZ Soccer chief Graham Seatter said he was relieved at a "happy ending to what proved a protracted negotiation process".

"We've been as frustrated as anyone with the delays and extensions we sought but we had to do that," he said.

"The only other option was to say goodbye to it and it was far too important for that."

"The A-League is absolutely critical from all points of view. We haven't got a professional competition so having a professional team is the next best thing."

New Zealand national team and former Knights mentor Ricki Herbert is expected to be the coach of the team.

A statement from New Zealand Soccer said Herbert, who played for the All Whites during the 1980s, was poised to sign a three-year contract to coach the unnamed Wellington club.

"Now the number one priority is recruitment. Are we behind the eight ball? Maybe. But that's the reality of our situation and it's not something we can use as an excuse," Herbert said.

"We're on the doorstep of a competition that is attracting crowds comparable to the top footballing countries in the world. It's got to be a step ahead for the game to be involved in that.

"From a personal point of view it's a fantastic opportunity to be involved in the level of football that we've seen evolve through versions one and two of the A-League."