Wellington signs All Whites
It's early days, but don't expect the latest incarnation of a professional New Zealand soccer franchise to mimic the mistakes of its predecessors.
Wellington is now home to an A-League soccer team after local millionaire property developer Terry Serepisos performed his version of a gallant white knight.
Instead of riding a stead, Serepisos flashed a hefty cheque book as he stumped up with the $A2 million start-up cash the Wellington bid had been struggling to secure.
With confirmed financial backing from its new owner, Football Federation Australia (FFA) bosses on Monday awarded a three-year licence to New Zealand Soccer (NZS) after weeks of turmoil.
NZS, which had competition for the eighth place licence from Townsville Tropical, will then sub-let the licence to the Wellington consortium starting with the 2007-08 season.
All Whites mentor Ricki Herbert, installed as coach of the unnamed team on Monday, insisted they wanted at least half the squad to be from New Zealand.
It's a policy both the Football Kingz, and the New Zealand Knights, who had their licence revoked by the FFA three months ago, failed to pursue.
Some pundits argued that having a minimal New Zealand quota failed to attract a loyal following, while the Auckland-based clubs tended to pursue aging players from overseas as their marquee signings.
Herbert made his stance very clear on the side's composition.
"We will make New Zealand players a priority," he said.
"Probably somewhere between 10-12 New Zealand players, but they have to be the right ones."
Herbert confirmed he had 15 players in his sights, many of whom were All Whites who depart with him on Monday for a two-match South American tour.
Despite the protracted negotiations, which FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said threatened to end New Zealand's involvement in the A-League, Herbert said no players he wanted to sign had slipped through the net.
"Players have signalled that there is a dedication to return home.
"Now we have to work through the priorities of which players will be more beneficial to have back here."
Focusing on local talent will ultimately benefit the All Whites and Herbert, who will commute from his home in Auckland to the teams' base at Westpac Stadium.
Losing a professional New Zealand team would have been disastrous for NZS and the development of young talent as they eye qualification for the 2010 World Cup.
While there are no visa restrictions on New Zealanders wanting to play for Australian clubs, under new rules for the Australian franchises that qualify for the lucrative Asian Football Confederation's Champions League, New Zealanders are classified as foreigners.
The team's name will be revealed in the coming weeks, as will the board's composition and the management structure surrounding Herbert.