Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pressure on NZ Knights to remain in A-League

Football Federation Australia is coming under increasing pressure to dump the New Zealand Knights from the A-League next season after the club attracted only 1632 fans to watch them lose 0-1 to Central Coast Mariners at North Harbour, Auckland, on Thursday night, their fourth successive loss, Gary Birkett reported from New Zealand. It was the smallest crowd in the short history of the league, eclipsing the 1922 figure set when the Knights played Melbourne Victory at the same venue in round 14 last season.

"Yes, it is a concern," confessed FFA head of operations, Matt Carroll, "but it's probably of greater concern to the owners and investors of the Knights. They've been dealt a pretty ordinary start to the match program." He said an unfriendly schedule, including two Thursday night home games, had been forced on the FFA by the North Harbour stadium operators and Sky TV, the local broadcaster. "Both the stadium and Sky have commitments to (the local Rugby Union competition). Sky wouldn't give us the coverage we need on weekends because of those commitments," he said.

He added that recent comments from New Zealand Soccer official Mike Kernaghan, in which the Knights' right to even call themselves "New Zealand" was called into question, were "extremely unhelpful".

The New Zealand Knights are regarded by FFA as an Australian club located in New Zealand but the Asian Football Confederation appears to consider the Knights as a New Zealand club playing in the A-League. Under the later view the Knights could not qualify for the Asian Champions League as New Zealand is a member of the Oceania Football Confederation, whose own Champions League is a stakeholder in FIFA's Club World Championship.

See also: Oceania directly to CWC but NZ Knights in limbo (5 June)

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