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
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.