Football: Auckland FC supporter group claims co-owner set up Wellington Phoenix pitch invasion

The plot has thickened in the ongoing saga surrounding the case of the pitch invader sporting a yet-to-be-released Auckland FC jersey at the Wellington Phoenix game at Eden Park.

The incident occurred during the 81st minute of the Phoenix's win over Sydney FC on Saturday, sparking speculation it had been set up by the new NZ-based A-League franchise as a publicity stunt to stoke the flames of their budding new rivalry, before they begin their maiden campaign next season.

Eden Park chief executive Nick Sautner has denied any involvement, saying the invader had received a two-year ban from the ground.

The Phoenix take on Sydney FC at Eden Park.
The Phoenix take on Sydney FC at Eden Park. Photo credit: Photosport

Sauntner also says he'd contacted one of the club's co-owners to express his concern about the behaviour. Newshub understands that co-owner is Kiwi entrepreneur Anna Mowbray, who has an interest in the club, along with partner and former All Black Ali Williams.

The group linked to the pitch invasion - Auckland FC's new support crew 'Terrazza d'Azzurro' - has since claimed it was given a jersey by one of the club's owners in exchange for storming the field to steal the limelight in the final Phoenix 'home' game at Eden Park.

"One of the Auckland FC owners offered us some shirts, if we crashed the 'Nix party," the group tweeted. "Worth it to see all the Wellington fans bleat on about it today."

Auckland FC chief executive Nick Becker has also denied any knowledge of the incident, but tellingly says he can not speak on behalf of Mowbray or Williams, neither of whom have responded to Newshub's inquiries.  

The pitch invasion adds to the blossoming rivalry between the two clubs, which have exchanged jibes over recent months.

The Auckland franchise has scheduled two major announcements to coincide with Wellington games in its territory, while the Phoenix have threatened to extend their catchment area 700km north to include New Zealand's biggest city, suggesting the newcomers could host their home fixtures at Kerikeri.