Football: Curious case of Auckland FC pitch invader during Wellington Phoenix win at Eden Park

Auckland FC - New Zealand's second A-League team - has been official less than 73 hours, but they are already stealing headlines from their Wellington rivals sitting atop the competition ladder.

The anonymous pitch invader who made his way onto Eden Park in the 81st minute of the Phoenix win over Sydney FC wore a yet-to-be-released Auckland FC jersey.

That particular element has sparked plenty of speculation over whether the incident - which carries a $5000 fine - was a set-up.

The anonymous pitch invader is escorted off Eden Park.
The anonymous pitch invader is escorted off Eden Park. Photo credit: Photosport

Newshub has received video of the pitch invader heading onto the field from a source claiming the incident was a publicity stunt by the new club, which had the green light from Eden Park. That approval would go against everything administrators have said about pitch invasion over the years.

Five minutes later, the source called back to retract their story, saying the club and the co-owners mentioned had nothing to do with it. At that point, the affair became a mystery.

Eden Park chief executive Nick Sautner has denied any involvement in the incident.

"Eden Park strongly rejects any inference that it was aware of or endorsed yesterday's pitch invasion," he told Newshub. "Player, official and staff safety is of utmost importance to Eden Park and fans.

"We trespassed the individual for two years and provided details to the A-League match commissioner.

"Furthermore, I personally contacted one of the new owners to express my concern about the behaviour, advising that any encouragement of unsafe conduct has the ability to compromise the family-friendly atmosphere and naure of sporting fixtures at Eden Park."

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. Neither have responded to inquiries from Newshub.

Auckland FC chief executive Nick Becker also denies any knowledge of the incident, but insists he cannot speak on behalf of Mowbray or Williams. Becker also suggests there were limited numbers of the jersey at the club's launch this week and some went missing.  

The Phoenix-Sydney game was the last 'home' game at Eden Park for the Wellingtonians. Next time they play at the venue, they will be guests of Auckland FC.

The pitch invasion adds to the already burgeoning rivalry between the 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.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in this war of words.