Wellington Phoenix owner Terry Serepisos has revealed plans to bankroll the club for the next decade, despite the recession forcing him to scale back his property ventures.
As the Phoenix prepare for a first A-League finals appearance by a New Zealand team on Sunday, the millionaire tycoon and host of The Apprentice NZ has pledged to fund the club for another 10 years.
Although the team was losing him $1 million a year, it was his way of giving back to the community, he said.
“There’s no use earning a whole lot of money and not doing anything with it.”
Mr Serepisos hoped this season’s success would make the team more financially viable, as television rights were renegotiated and new sponsors came on board.
His pledge comes despite tough times in the property market.
“It’s certainly tightened things up. I’m not immune to it. I’ve decided to consolidate my portfolio a bit.”
He plans to sell his Lone Star and Manners St BNZ buildings and has shelved a $60m plan to build a 16-storey development in Dixon St.
“I’ve had to go back to the drawing board to come up with something not as grand for now.”
Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said the club would be happy to continue under Mr Serepisos’ ownership.
“He’s been very good for the game. Without him there would not have been an A-League team and who knows what would have happened with the All Whites.”
Despite the pledge of support, the club’s future remains uncertain.
Asian Football Confederation head Mohamed Bin Hammam has called for the team’s expulsion from the Australian league, because New Zealand is part of governing body Fifa’s Oceania zone, while Australia is part of the Asian zone.
The Phoenix’s A-League licence expires at the end of June, but the club has a year to secure a 10-year extension.
Mr Pignata said negotiations were continuing but Football Australia was supportive and he was optimistic an extension would be granted before July.
In a very short time 11,000 tickets had been sold to last weeks playoff match against Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium. Club officials were hoping for 20,000 spectators. From Nikki MacDonald from the The Dominion Post