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The case for Auckland United

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By Hone Fowler

Auckland United FC has been going strong representing South Auckland in the ASB Youth League for three years now. Over that time, the club has performed well both on and off the field and has embarked on the task of establishing the necessary pathways to elite football for scores of young players who would have otherwise had no such opportunity. The proposed ASB Premiership bid is the natural progression along this pathway for these young footballers. As well as this, it presents a unique opportunity to grow football in a significant and largely untapped population.

Centre Park in Mangere sits a stone’s throw away from Auckland Airport and is one of New Zealand’s premier boutique football venues, with current facilities seating up to 4,500 people comfortably (and space to grow with the game) this is an ideal base for top-flight football here in the heart of South Auckland – home to over half a million people.

With over a third of Auckland’s population and a relatively youthful demographic keen on sport, one would be doing the game a disservice not to harness this potential. Among kids in South Auckland, football is now on a par with rugby as the sport they want to play (CMS, 2015). What is currently missing is an accessible, engaging and comprehensive football pathway from the grassroots to semi-pro/professional arena. It’s simple logic. If you have a destination, then the roads to that goal will get clearer through necessity. If we have a pathway to elite football the whole region and its clubs will benefit.

South Auckland is a huge market of raw talent. If we can convince just a small number of kids to take up football instead of the oval ball game in the largest Polynesian City in the world, we would create a catalyst for change, developing football in New Zealand and inspiring communities throughout the Pacific (currently more and more Maori and Pacific players are contributing significantly to football in NZ e.g. Wintson Reid, Bill Tuiloma, Michael Boxall, Te Atawhai Wihongi, Roy Krishna and the list is growing). The ASB Premiership league is an opportunity to not only give a team to a highly populated geographical area, but to forge a new identity for football in New Zealand.

What the Warriors have shown us is that establishing itself in South Auckland allowed it to be on fertile ground developing the next generation of talented athletes. We want NZ Football to get a share of this by putting a franchise and its frameworks right in the middle of the pool of sporting talent. We need football to be competing in the same space, and with our ambitious plans, local and international networks and NZ Football’s support, this immense potential can be realised. The Warriors started off with relying on overseas players but now with their academy well established they have become the engine room for the entire NRL. We need to establish similar pathways in football, but like the Warriors, we need to be where the people are!

At the moment, clubs in South Auckland are doing their best to promote football in their local area; the general feeling across South Auckland is that more can be done to work together more efficiently for the good of the game in our region. The will is there, and now the opportunity is there to do just that through a pinnacle franchise club, South Auckland united in football.

The ASB Premiership also needs to increase the crowd numbers we are currently seeing. We can do that by promoting the game to a new market largely untapped until now. And through growing the fan base we can become a powerhouse financially. Ba (Fiji) played Waitakere in an O-League final few years ago. There were more Ba supporters than Waitakere United by 9:1. The crowd that day was 8000. We are confident that with the right strategy we can achieve similar numbers as we grow interest in the game.

The choice is simple. To grow and develop football in New Zealand, target and support applicants and populations who have the people to make meaningful and sustainable change. The ASB Premiership is screaming out for diversity and flare, and the population of South Auckland is screaming out for better opportunities in football!

Auckland United FC has a solid track record and has what it takes to run a successful ASB Premiership club. We say grow the game, and invest where the real potential is!

[This is the fifth in a series of guest posts from bidding entities stating why they would make great ASB Premiership clubs. I have now been in communication with all the new bids that I am aware of. I’m not sure if all will participate in this feature yet, but I remain hopeful. With all the information out in the open, us fans are much more likely to understand the bids and in turn the decisions that NZF ultimately make.]

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

4 replies

  1. This is an article which has confirmed that starting our JETSETS brand for promoting junior football in South Auckland, is the only way forward if we want NZF to have a larger and more skilled player base to pick from in the future. At present NZFFA are running a Junior Summer League. The last 3 rounds of games are restarting on 10th January 2016. Games start at 1030am. Come down to Mangere Centre Park and be amazed and thrilled by the talent of these youngsters,!
    Support is needed more for the development of these Juniors from 9 years. These Juniors love to play and us adults only need to provide them with a good framework to work within. This is the very reason why Vernon Chand and Ravinesh Kumar founded Team JETSETS. We hope that by volunteering our time to effectively grow JETSETS, people will see the benefits to the Juniors and will apply their free time to this exciting and growing area of football. This will in itself create a pathway for our Juniors. If we don’t do this for them, who have these wonderful talented youngsters got?

  2. Hi Hone,

    Thanls for your post. I admire your great sense of community, and the fact an active footballer should be giving a lead such as this.

    Yours would appear to be one of the more aspirational bids. Here’s a few questions:

    How would Auckland United cope financially, given even the cheapest of the existing franchises budget on $170,000 a year? And for that matter, how would the target demographic cope with, say, the $15 a head entry charged by Auckland City and Waitakere City?

    In terms of crowd support, could you indicate what sort of backing the Auckland United youth team has attracted?

    Could you explain the football relationship between Auckland United and Mangere United, which I am assuming is the club most closely associated?

    Why don’t you call it South Auckland United, which would more clearly identify the district you are trying to grow?

    Could you comment on the administrative expertise the club can call upon?

    I note your point about the Ba match attendance, which mirrors the football fan behaviour of many of our ethnic enclaves. They apparently love the game – but only ever seem to attend as paying fans when Fiji/South Korea/China etc are playing. ie, they have almost a total disconnect to the mainstream of the domestic code. What makes you think they would suddenly attend Auckland United matches (unless you were playing Ba)?

  3. Kia ora Bruce,

    I appreciate your interest and some good questions – see answers to each of your questions below:

    – We have been fortunate to have had a franchise team in the ASB Youth League for the past three years. This experience has allowed us to not only forge strong partnerships with our existing funders but also develop relationships with a number of potential sponsors who have pledged support given the green-light with the full franchise team. All share and support our aspirations to have South Auckland represented at national league level and on the world stage. This support will allow us to offer more affordable entry charges.

    – There have been occasions when Auckland United’s Youth games have attracted greater attendances than Premiership games, with several hundred watching on any given weekend, and obviously bigger crowds at cross-town derbies. We are confident with comprehensive marketing initiatives, the support of fans throughout Auckland, particularly in the South, will exceed conservative targets.

    – The association exists so far as both clubs utilise the excellent facilities at Mangere Centre Park – Mangere United in the winter, Auckland United FC in the summer (I guess a similar arrangement is seen at other ASB Premiership clubs). Auckland United FC boasts a broad representation of AFF affiliated clubs and other community groups, of which Mangere United is included. The meaningful participation of all clubs in the area is important to Auckland United’s success, work is well underway towards achieving this.

    – Good question, and something that has been debated, but the club name and slogan together “Auckland United – Pride of the South” identifies the region and area we represent.

    – Our experience over the past 3 years in dealings with national league administrators has been extremely valuable and with our proven track record in this environment we are more than confident we have what it takes to run a successful franchise and grow the game in our region.

    – Another fair question Bruce and I suppose it touches on one of our points of difference – this disconnect you speak of is where our vast community networks and pathway plans come in to affect. Engagement with these communities is key and developing a more inclusive and accessible football pathway that appreciates the practices of these communities and works towards inclusion in mainstream football is something we have already started to implement. Living and working in a the diverse community of South Auckland, especially in our large migrant communities, football is often a common language – this is something to celebrate and grow, the communities will benefit and the game in NZ will be richer for it.

    Cheers mate,
    Hone

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