Sunday, December 17, 2006

New Zealand given until 31 Dec for A-League club

Football Federation Australia has set a deadline of 31 January for new owners to step forward and take over the New Zealand Knights franchise in the A-League or they will give the licence to an Australian club. The FFA have said they are committed to a New Zealand-based team playing in the league but it is dependent on some person or group willing to invest the $5 million to $6 million a year needed. "We want a team from New Zealand playing in the A-League and I hope we will be able to issue them a licence by the end of January," A-League head of operations Matt Carroll told Michael Brown of the New Zealand Herald. "Unless meaningful discussions are taking place then, January 31 is the deadline. But New Zealand Soccer are confident there are people in New Zealand who will back a team in the A-League and that discussions with them will start in earnest next week."

The license was taken from a holding company owned by Brian Katzen, Anthony Lee and Maurice Cox. Katzen co-founded Octagon Holdings in 1997, which owns 50 companies, employs 800 people and generates revenue of about US$300 million. Within Octagon's portfolio is English League One club Swansea City Football Club, which the company bought a major share of in 2002. At the time, Swansea were teetering on the brink of collapse but in the space of four years have turned things around on and off the pitch. Lee founded Student Support Centre in 1990 and built it into a business with 500 people and a turnover of NZ$20 million. Earlier this year, Katzen told the NZ Herald on Sunday: "We are not doing it for fun, you know. We're here to make money, otherwise I wouldn't be around."

He said he wouldn't panic about losses of NZ$3 million last season as "everything is a long ride. It takes years to get things right because in business, you have to invest for the long term, otherwise it doesn't make sense. If you want a quick fix, it's like gambling. "[What happened] last year makes me feel even more strongly about getting it right. It makes me want to prove to myself and to other people that we can make it in a rugby-mad culture."

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