Football: Auckland expansion club confirmed in Australian A-League under American owner Bill Foley

American Bill Foley and his Black Knight Football Club have been confirmed as principals in an Auckland-based expansion team in the Australian A-League from next year.

Brandishing a massive championship ring won by his Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team this year, Foley, 78, already owns Bournemouth in the English Premier League, with interest in French club Lorient in Ligue 1.

"It's an honour to bring a top football club to Auckland," he said. "Building a championship team from expansion has been my most exhilarating professional achievement and I aim to do the same for the fans of New Zealand, and particularly the community on the North Island.

Bill Foley and Black Knight Football Club are confirmed for A-League expansion team.
Bill Foley and Black Knight Football Club are confirmed for A-League expansion team. Photo credit: Photosport

"It’s a special place and an area that I know will embrace this team."

Foley's bid has received its licence from the Australian Professional Leagues, which runs the national men's and women's competitions across the Tasman, with Wellington Phoenix already fielding teams in both.

Last month, Newshub reported the offshore bid had headed off another spearheaded by American entrepreneur Marc Mitchell - a minority owner in the NZ Breakers basketball club - and former ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge, supported by former All Whites captains Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid, and current Football Ferns skipper Ali Riley.

"In Bill Foley, we have a proven global sports investor and operator, with a track record of building deep roots in the community, a passion for football, and a long-standing business and personal relationship with New Zealand," said APL chair Stephen Conroy.

"We are delighted to welcome Bill and his team to the A-Leagues, and look forward to seeing the club in action next year."

Black Knight Football Club intends launching its men's team in the next A-League season, with the women following in 2025/26.

"I've been coming to New Zealand for almost 20 years, said Foley. "We have investments here and we're highly engaged in the community, particularly in the south end of the North Island, where we have a lodge.

"We have restaurants, a wine business, but there's nothing like sports - sports is the best - and we intend to be a very successful franchise.

"I intend to bring this," he promised, waving his Stanley Cup ring. "When we win the championship, our players will get one of these."

Foley was awarded the Las Vegas-based NHL expansion team in 2016, pledging to win the championship within six seasons and achieving that against the Carolina Panthers in June.

"When we built the team, we built a team," he said. "We don't have a group of individuals, we have a team that works together and stays together, and we'll do the same process here in Auckland.

"We'll do it both for the mens' team and the women's team, because we're in this programme to win... to win, period. No excuses.

"Always advance, never retreat."

Current All Whites coach Darren Bazeley in action for NZ Knights.
Current All Whites coach Darren Bazeley in action for NZ Knights. Photo credit: Photosport

Foley has not yet settled on a name for the new team, given the 'Knights' moniker has already been used in Auckland, with disastrous consequences. From 2005-07, NZ Knights contested two A-League seasons, attracting disappointing crowds to North Harbour Stadium and finishing bottom of the table both years, before their licence was revoked.

They were subsequently replaced by the Phoenix.

"I'm going to have all the input, but we haven't picked a name yet," laughed Foley. "We have to really go through a process, and make sure whatever name we pick will represent New Zealand and Auckland.

"I have a special name I like, because my alma mater are the Black Knights and black is a strong statement in New Zealand, but we have a lot of other ideas on names. It'll take us a process."