Wellington Phoenix hit back Saturday at growing speculation that the sale of its A-League licence is imminent, describing the talk as “hugely disappointing and clearly upsetting”.
Latest reports from Australian media have the troubled Phoenix on the verge of a deal with a Southwest Sydney consortium which would see New Zealand’s only fully professional football club head across the Tasman Sea.
News Corp Australia said a memorandum of understanding had been agreed which would see the club become the third A-league side based in Sydney.
Another report said Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop had confirmed he held a meeting with Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison and director of the Southwest Sydney expansion bid, Gino Mirra, on Friday.
But in a statement Saturday, Phoenix owners Welnix dismissed suggestions that the licence was for sale although they confirmed there was room for fresh investors in the club.
“The club is not looking to sell its licence,” the statement said.
“The speculation is hugely disappointing and clearly upsetting for fans and sponsors but unfortunately the club cannot control it.
“Welnix, as the owners, have consistently maintained that they are open to external investors who could bring capital and players to the club as well as providing professional development pathways for the players from New Zealand.
“Although there are currently potential options that are worth exploring what is certain, despite the leaky nature of the industry, is the Phoenix will not conduct any of those discussions via the media.”
The underperforming Phoenix, without a permanent coach since early March when Darije Kalezic left less than a year after taking the job, only won five matches this season.
The statement said a decision on the new coach was expected soon.
Phoenix’s spot in the Australian league is only guaranteed until the end of the 2019-20 season, with A-League administrators looking for better results and attendances to keep it going.