New Zealand’s second A-League club has been confirmed with Texan billionaire Bill Foley named as the successful bidder to launch a new Auckland club.
Using the working title AKLFootball24, a newly-created website says the Auckland-based expansion club will announce its official name, crest and kit soon.
The club will enter the men’s A-League in 2024 and the women’s A-League a year later, providing competition for the Wellington Phoenix in harnessing New Zealand support.
The CEO of the new Auckland club will be New Zealander Nick Becker who has worked in professional sport for more than two decades, in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Foley (78) has been the frontrunner since the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) announced on October 11 he was the preferred bidder to win licences for entries in the A-Leagues.
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The successful bidder was expected to pay a minimum buy-in fee of $25 million.
Main photo credit: Sulthan Auliya on Unsplash
Bill Foley: ‘It’s an honour’
In a statement, Foley said:
“It’s an honour to bring a top football club to Auckland.
“Building a championship team from expansion has been my most exhilarating professional achievement, and I aim to do the same for the fans of New Zealand and particularly the community on the North Island.
“It’s a special place and an area that I know will embrace this team.”
Foley has written an open letter to clubs in the northern region, explaining his vision and plans for the club.
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NZ Football’s Andrew Pragnell: ‘A step change moment for football’
Andrew Pragnell, New Zealand Football CEO, said:
“The expansion of the A-Leagues into Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, and the league becoming truly Australasian, is a step change moment in the development of football in New Zealand.
“This is an exciting day and we welcome Bill Foley to the wider football system in this country.
“Bill has seen the potential of Auckland as a football city and is here for the long haul to help grow and develop the sport.
“The relationship between New Zealand Football and Football Australia has never been stronger, and it has been great to see the benefits of co-hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 spread far and wide.
“This expansion has been in part made possible by these positive trans-Tasman football relations and we look forward to this continuing over the coming years.
“We are truly stronger together and the region as a whole benefits from football development when we are aligned.”
APL’s Stephen Conroy: ‘A proven global sports investor’
The Hon Stephen Conroy, Chair of the Australian Professional Leagues, said:
“In Bill Foley we have a proven global sports investor and operator with a track record of building deep roots in the community, a passion for football, and a long-standing business and personal relationship with New Zealand.
“We are delighted to welcome Bill and his team to the A-Leagues and look forward to seeing the club in action next year.”
Football Australia’s James Johnson: ‘A fresh and engaging approach’
James Johnson, Football Australia CEO, said:
“Bill’s experience in sports and his focus on community engagement are valuable as we look forward to the club’s debut in the A-Leagues, offering a fresh and engaging approach for our fans and players.”
NRF’s Laura Menzies: ‘Brilliant news’
Northern Region Football CEO Laura Menzies said:
“This is brilliant news for our football community, who will soon have professional football teams of their own to support, and local derbies with the Wellington Phoenix to look forward to. This couldn’t come at a better time, off the back of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
“Strong professional teams need a strong football community behind them, and we look forward to working with AKLFootball24 to build that connection with our clubs.
“From speaking with Bill Foley’s team, we’re excited by their track record of investing and building the grassroots game. Bill has written to our clubs today to outline his vision, and NRF looks forward to helping guide this mahi.”
More about Bill Foley
Foley, known widely as Bill, is the general partner of the global multi-club football operator Black Knight Football Club, is the chairman of English Premier League club Bournemouth and in January 2023, he acquired a significant minority stake in French Ligue 1 club FC Lorient.
Bournemouth and FC Lorient have a working partnership.
Foley owns multiple businesses in New Zealand, including Foley Wines Ltd, a public company listed on the NZ stock exchange, consisting of five wineries in Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago, a restaurant group with venues in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, including the iconic SOUL bar in Auckland, as well as the luxury lodge Wharekauhau on the South Wairarapa Coast.
Plans to add Auckland club to A-League
The Australian Professional League plans to grow the men’s and women’s A-League competitions to 16 teams each, introducing four new clubs over the next three years.
In the first step, Auckland and Canberra were identified as the “clear standouts” to provide teams 13 and 14 in the expansion.
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Football Australia and New Zealand Football will seek final approval for the franchise by the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA.
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