Football: Wellington Phoenix set to join W-League this season

The Wellington Phoenix are reportedly close to announcing their first-ever women's team ahead of the upcoming W-league season.

According to ESPN, the proposal was given the green light at a meeting of club owners earlier this week, and the Phoenix now have nine weeks to organise a team for the 2020/21 season, which starts on December 27.

Due to strict global travel restrictions, the team will likely be based in Australia for the entire season, with the ABC reporting that they'll be based in Wollongong, New South Wales.   

Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni told ESPN that he was excited by the news, considering New Zealand and Australia will co-host the 2023 Women's World Cup. 

"The inclusion of a Wellington W-League team would be significant in the elite development pathway for New Zealand women's football and having the players together on a full-time professional basis would be a huge step forward," says Sermanni.

Earlier this year, Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome spoke of the importance of starting a women's team, particularly if the joint bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup was successful.

In June, New Zealand and Australia were confirmed as hosts for the tournament.

Nine teams currently contest the W-League, with Melbourne City the reigning champions. Football Ferns players Rebekah Stott and Annalie Longo are among the Kiwis in the competition. 

In June this year, Football Ferns defender CJ Bott told Newshub she was excited by the prospect of having a professional women's team in New Zealand. 

Bott, who currently plays in Norway said she'd consider returning to New Zealand if the Phoenix got a professional women's team.

I think it would be the most incredible thing," she says. from her Norway base. 

"The W-League is such a good league and everyone wants to play in it, so to have a team in Wellington, all of us would be fighting to be in the team. 

"It is always a huge barrier with everyone playing in different countries around the world, so if some of us could be training and playing together regularly, that would be beneficial."

With no professional team in New Zealand, the Kiwi women are scattered all around the world. The 24 players that represented the Football Ferns at the Algarve Cup earlier this year play their trade across nine different countries, including the US, Germany and Norway.