If Gareth Morgan had the option to move the Wellington Phoenix out of Westpac Stadium, he would do it instantly.
Speaking to Radio Sport yesterday, Morgan highlighted the need to lift the experience fans have at games and give them more of an “intimate” experience.
“We go to the A-League games in Australia and they’re played in smaller grounds which are far more intimate, and the fans love it because they can almost reach out and touch the players,” said Morgan.
“In most of New Zealand, rugby or football is played in cricket grounds. [Westpac Stadium] is a cricket ground, it’s no good.”
When asked if he would consider moving the team into a smaller 10,000 capacity stadium, Morgan responded with “absolutely”.
“If that was available, we would move tomorrow without any doubt.”
Two plans have been drawn up moving the Phoenix to a potential new home in Petone or a redeveloped Newtown Park.
John Morrison, a former Wellington councillor who played a key role in keeping the club in the capital, and Yellow Fever’s Guy Smith joined Tony Veitch’s Radio Sport show to talk about Morgan’s recent comments.
“Both Rob Morrison and Gareth Morgan have been concerned about the stadium and fans for a couple of years, and when I was involved they came and saw me about the possibility of a new 10 to 12 thousand seat facility,” said Morrison.
“It wasn’t just about the sideline issue, but the general punters have been head butting with the stadium about overzealous security and food issues. I think a couple of things could be rectified, obviously not the oval issue, with a little bit of creative thinking.”
Guy Smith added how a Phoenix stadium move could end up benefiting the control the club would have with fans.
“It would be great for the club to have more control with what happens on match day. The fans aren’t quite getting what they want, the club knows what they want, and the stadium isn’t particularly open to doing it,” said Smith.
“Around the world football clubs generally are in control of their own stadiums, and that gives them total control of how the fans are treated and maybe that’s the way we have to go in Wellington.”