A-League: Wellington Phoenix hoping for record crowd at Eden Park

A-League: Wellington Phoenix hoping for record crowd at Eden Park
Photo credit: Photosport

The feel-good factor generated by the Wellington Phoenix has captured fans in Auckland and could result in their largest home crowd for an A-League regular season match.

A return to Eden Park for Friday's game against Melbourne Victory was initially considered a financial risk, but tickets have been snapped up, with club officials hopeful they can surpass a crowd of 20,000.

General manager David Dome had set an attendance target of 15,000, but that looks like being comfortably achieved, with tickets for extra bays being made available at New Zealand's biggest sports venue on Wednesday.

The biggest Wellington A-League home crowds came during the 2009-10 finals. Nearly 33,000 watched the victorious minor semi-final against Newcastle at Westpac Stadium.

Phoenix's record attendance in the regular season is 20,078, against Adelaide at Eden Park seven years ago.

Three subsequent visits to the famous test rugby ground have drawn smaller crowds and the club hasn't been back since 2014, because of excessive costs.

But a revival of fortunes this season under new coach Mark Rudan and the chance to see Victory's Japanese star Keisuke Honda have sparked a response.

"It's always hard to gauge and is never an exact science, but given past ticket purchase patterns, Friday night's match could very well be the club's largest-ever crowd outside a finals match," Dome said.

The sixth-placed Phoenix are on track to reach the finals, having exceeded all expectations. They have drawn with the defending champions Victory in their two clashes this season.

A large crowd will be important for the Wellington club, whose future beyond next season is still to be determined.

Under an agreement with the FFA, the Phoenix must improve their crowd and broadcast numbers, among other metrics, to have their licence extended.

The inclusion of Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison on a working group to determine a new, club-driven operating model for the A-League is regarded as a positive outcome for Wellington's prospects.


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