Up to two English Premier League teams could be coming to these shores in July for matches against the Wellington Phoenix.
One – and possibly two – Premier League teams are being invited to play games versus the Phoenix, with the possibility of a blockbuster match at Eden Park on the cards.
The Herald on Sunday understands that one Premier League team, which has not been identified, has already been confirmed for games against an Australian A-League team (believed to be the Brisbane Roar) and the Wellington side before the next A-League season.
If a second club from England can be signed, there is an exciting prospect of both Premier League teams playing matches in New Zealand within the space of a week, though the identity of the confirmed – and prospective – Premier League clubs are unknown.
It would be the most notable club visit to these shores in decades. Everton were the last English top flight club to visit this country back in 1987. Brought out for Auckland Football’s centenary celebrations, they came as reigning league champions and had games against Auckland and Canterbury.
In the 1970s and 1980s, before off-season tours became massive money-making ventures (and before the explosion of Asian interest in the English game), games featuring British sides were comparatively commonplace in this country.
Newcastle United (featuring a young Paul Gascoigne), Glasgow Rangers, Watford (with John Barnes), Norwich City, Luton Town and Sunderland were among those who visited in those decades, as well as Manchester United’s famous trip in 1967.
The viability of the venture will also depend on financial and logistical support from local and central government in this country.
Though other cities are not out of the question, with their population bases Wellington and Auckland are likely to be vying for the rights to host the match.
Premier League teams usually insist on a guaranteed up-front match appearance fee while the hosts would also have to take care of airfares and accommodation for a travelling contingent of up to 40 personnel.
A match fee of US$1 million ($1.21 million) is a starting point for many Premier League teams, though mega-clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea charge in excess of US$1.5 million ($1.81 million) and are not thought to be on the radar for the New Zealand market.
The Wellington visit by LA Galaxy in 2007 – when David Beckham was still somewhere near his prime and the American club were in demand worldwide – showed just what can be achieved if the price is right and the marketing and pre-match activities are done well.
The game was a virtual sell-out, drawing the biggest football crowd in this country until the All Whites’ play-off against Bahrain in 2009.
Herald on Sunday