Taking on two English Premier League teams provides a valuable pre-season hit-out for Sydney FC but A-League rivals Wellington are hoping the benefits are far bigger for their club.
The Sky Blues and Phoenix will face EPL sides Newcastle United and West Ham United in an off-season tournament in New Zealand in July with games to be played in three cities.
It is the first time any English top-flight club has come to New Zealand in 27 years and Phoenix bosses say while luring the two teams over is a financial risk, it’s also fundamental to their own sustainability.
Chairman Rob Morrison says protracted negotiations and significant costs are worth it as the Phoenix seek to establish a greater fan base and attract sponsors – areas that have stagnated in recent times.
“You can’t do that by sitting there with a one-team, one-competition club – we have to get more people interested in the game of football in this country,” he said.
“If we can’t line all those things up, then it’s unlikely the club is going to be sustainable in the long term.”
Organisers will hope the games attract the same interest as fixtures in Australia in the same window last year.
A crowd of 83,000 watched Manchester United play an A-League All Star team in Sydney and Melbourne Victory’s home game against Liverpool drew 95,000.
Sydney FC kick off the event when they play Newcastle United at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 22.
The Phoenix will face West Ham a day later at Eden Park in Auckland.
Then a double-header at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on July 26 will pit Sydney FC against West Ham and the Phoenix against Newcastle.
“It is fantastic that the Phoenix is putting on this event and that Sydney FC has been asked to take part,” Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata said in a statement.
“Playing against two strong EPL sides will be a great experience for our players and will be an important part of our pre-season program.
“You don’t often get the opportunity to have games against such quality opposition leading into the season.”
Newcastle are ninth with two games remaining in the Premier League season although they are on a six-game losing streak.
They boast a number of leading French players, including striker Loic Remy and midfielders Hatem Ben Arfa and Moussa Sissoko.
West Ham are also slumping at the end of their campaign, dropping to 14th after four successive defeats but they are likely to avoid relegation.
Phoenix general manager David Dome says both clubs have committed to bringing their strongest teams as it is a key part of their pre-season program.
Their leading drawcard will be All Whites captain and defender Winston Reid. Former England striker Andy Carroll is also on their books.
The Phoenix finished ninth in the A-League this season while fifth-placed Sydney FC were knocked out in the first stage of the playoffs.
They will be without former Italy and Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero, who has confirmed he is leaving the club after two seasons.