Football: Wellington Phoenix farewell fairweather fans, as new Auckland franchise divides A-League loyalties

Good luck to you - that's the message from Wellington Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano to any fans thinking of swapping allegiances from his club to the new Auckland FC next season.

Although some fans will inevitably jump ship, Wellington are adamant most - even those based in Auckland - will stick with the yellow and black.

Now New Zealand's 'oldest' A-League club, the Phoenix were back training in the capital, as they prepare to head north for their match against Sydney FC at Eden Park.

Phoenix fans celebrate another Eden Park win, coach Giancarlo Italiano.
Phoenix fans celebrate another Eden Park win, coach Giancarlo Italiano. Photo credit: Getty Images

Although they will be the home side on Saturday, the 'City of Sails' will soon be enemy territory, when the new franchise arrives next season.

Italiano isn't impressed with its choice of colours.

"Well, I’m a mad Sampdoria fan and that look reminds me of Inter, so I’m not a big fan," he laughs. 

Another thing Italiano and his club won't love is losing Auckland-based fans. The Phoenix are are unbeaten in 11  matches at Eden Park, with an average attendance of more than 14,000 fans.  

That success has the club confident their fans are here to stay

"When you look at the DNA of what a Wellington Phoenix fan is and that is loyal," said Phoenix commercial head Tom Shaw. "Its engaged and it’s very passionate.

"You'll see that at Sky Stadium and you’ll see that [at Eden Park] tomorrow." 

The club is certain those crowd figures will only rise, when they contest a Kiwi derby.

"It brings a rivalry, it brings a talking point, which is far more than what sits in a matchday," said Shaw.  

For any fans thinking of jumping ship, Italiano has a simple message.

"I believe in real fans, I’m not a real big fan of bandwagon fans," he said. "If you want to go ahead and jump over to Auckland, good luck to you." 

And the fight for Kiwi football fans begins...