The off-field shenanigans are in full flight ahead of Wellington Phoenix’ return to New Zealand – and it’s turned into a classic Wellington v Auckland battle.
Wellington Phoenix, the country’s only professional football club, has been based in Australia for the A-League season – until now. With the formation of the trans-Tasman travel bubble, they are set to play two regular-season games in New Zealand.
First up is the Nix clash against Western United at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Saturday 22 May followed by Perth Glory at Auckland’s Eden Park on Sunday 30 May.
The aim is to attract at least 15,000 fans to each game, with the ultimate goal of beating the A-League attendance record of the season which sits at 20,336 (Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC on 1 May). But will it be Wellington, Auckland or both?
WellingtonNZ Events and Experiences General Manager Warrick Dent says Wellingtonians know how to back big sporting events.
“Top-flight football action has been sorely missed in the Capital and Wellingtonians are eager to see their heroes back in action at their spiritual home – Sky Stadium. Tickets are being snapped up by football fans and sports lovers in general.
“We would love to see the Phoenix draw a record regular season crowd and, naturally, we see that happening here in Wellington.”
Richard Clarke, Auckland Unlimited’s Head of Business and Major Events says Auckland is ready to welcome back football fans.
“Last year the Nix got a taste of what it’s like to play in front of a big crowd at New Zealand’s biggest stadium and it’s fantastic to have the team back again this year. Auckland loves a good rivalry and we are up for the challenge. So if visitors want a memorable weekend of more than just football then Tāmaki Makaurau is the place to be.”
The two Nix matches will be commentated on Sky Sport by Wellingtonian Jason Pine and Aucklander Fred de Jong.
Jason Pine says everyone knows Wellington is New Zealand’s home of football.
“When you think of the greatest occasions in our recent football history – the All Whites against Bahrain and the Phoenix’s A-League playoff matches – there’s only one venue that springs to mind. I’ve got no doubt Wellington fans will pack out Sky Stadium to welcome their side home."
Fred de Jong says it will be fantastic to see the Phoenix back on home soil.
“The Phoenix have never lost at Eden Park and everyone knows that if you want a great crowd then come to Auckland. Over 23,000 Aucklanders turned out last time the Phoenix played at Eden Park, against Melbourne Victory. By far the biggest crowd for a regular season game in Phoenix history.
“If you want points and punters then Auckland is the place to be.”
Jess Pritchard became a loyal Nix fan after attending her first game in 2009. She was voted the club’s fan of the year for the 2019/20 season. As soon as the Wellington game was announced, she rounded up her friends and bought tickets.
“It feels like I’m living a dream and it doesn’t quite feel real yet. When the news first came out I broke out in tears of joy and couldn’t stop saying the words ‘they’re coming home’.”
While the Wellington game has taken priority, the Auckland fixture is on her mind too.
“I am still deciding whether to attend the game in Auckland but most likely I’m going to make a day trip of it.”
To arrange interviews with Warrick Dent, Jason Pine, Fred de Jong and Jess Pritchard, please contact:
Corporate Communications Manager
dave.burgess@WellingtonNZ.com or 022 355 6471
027 292 3601