Phoenix to pay $1 million to FFA after missing off-field goals

Wellington Phoenix have been sent a bill for $1 million by Football Federation Australia for failing to hit their required off-field metrics this season.

Despite improving their home attendances by nearly 50 per cent and a significant upturn in their TV ratings on Sky Sport in New Zealand, the Phoenix still fell some way short of satisfying the contractual demands of their temporary A-League licence, which runs out at the end of next season, and must now pay $942,889.20.

The Herald understands that, as part of the four-year extension the Phoenix signed in February 2016 to remain in the A-League, the club agreed that it would meet certain benchmarks related to broadcast revenue each season. The contract provision was accepted by the club and FFA in recognition of the low value of the New Zealand market to the A-League.

If the Phoenix failed to hit the specified revenue number, there is a prescribed financial penalty that must be paid to FFA as a "make good". It is understood the size of the penalty increases for each year of the agreement.


The Herald understands FFA waited until after the conclusion of Wellington’s season to invoice the club for the outstanding amount, although chairman Rob Morrison said they were yet to receive anything formal.

FFA chief executive David Gallop confirmed there were "performance hurdles" put in place at the time of Wellington's licence renewal, but said it would be inappropriate to go into further detail.

"Wellington's position in the competition obviously intersects with the work of the New Leagues Working Group project, but there's a contractual obligation that sits separate to that," Gallop told the Herald.

"The reasons behind those hurdles are reasonably obvious, given their unique position in an Australian competition. Every club in the league is expected to perform in their own geographic area, but also add value to the overall league.

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"On one hand, Wellington are a very settled and secure financial part of the A-League in terms of their ownership structure but, on the other hand, they do hold a unique position which puts them under scrutiny in some quarters."

Morrison said the club was aware of its commercial obligations and that the payment was "no big deal".


The payment represents a significant financial blow for the club's owners, the Welnix consortium, which is Morrison, one of the key figures in the ongoing negotiations between the clubs and FFA over the mooted independence of the A-League. Morrison is highly respected among the other owners and has their firm backing.

As things stand, the Phoenix would be unlikely to be retained in the A-League due to their failure to improve their crowds and TV ratings figures to the levels demanded by FFA. However, if the A-League becomes independent, that decision could be taken out of FFA's hands. And, if the clubs were to become part-owners of the league itself, Wellington's long-term future would potentially be secured.

There is one month left until the June 30 deadline for the A-League’s independence from the FFA to be settled. What it looks like or whether that deadline is met remains to be seen. The Herald understands there is some reticence from FFA about full independence because it may give Fox Sports a legal opening to renegotiate the A-League’s broadcast deal.

With Foxtel having flagged cuts to "non-marquee sporting content" earlier this month to the ASX, that could place the $346 million, six-year deal the FFA signed in 2016 with the pay TV company in significant risk and jeopardise the A-League’s entire business model.

As for the short term, Phoenix face a difficult task in maintaining the momentum they gathered this season when they reached the A-League finals for the first time in four years. Mark Rudan, the coach who breathed new life into the club, has departed after just one season and moved to expansion team Western United.

Former Sydney FC assistant Ufuk Talay, who Rudan recommended for the job, has taken over as Wellington's head coach and has a huge job in front of him to replace several key players who have left the club. That list is headed by Roy Krishna, the newly-crowned Johnny Warren medallist and A-League golden boot, who is reportedly heading to South Korea.