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Sep 23, 2011

Buckley predicts A-League will prosper

Football Federation Australia boss Ben Buckley expects the A-League to prosper this season after a potential financial firestorm was extinguished with a change of ownership for Wellington Phoenix.

The FFA announced on Friday the Phoenix licence had been granted to a Wellington-based consortium headed by investment banker Rob Morrison.

It had been relinquished by property tycoon Terry Serepisos, who reportedly has debts of more than $NZ200 million ($A158 million).

"I feel very proud to have created this football club from scratch and I have poured all of my heart and energy into it but I have come to the conclusion that it is time to hand the licence back to FFA," Serepisos said earlier on Friday.

The 2011-12 competition has been reduced to ten clubs after North Queensland fell over at the end of last season.

Asked about reports of unpaid wages for Phoenix staff, Buckley said the FFA would sit down with club officials over the next few days to look at any outstanding issues.

Buckley also expressed optimism about reaching a resolution over a new ownership structure for A-League champions Brisbane Roar.

"I'm pretty confident, in fact I'm very confident, over time Brisbane will have an outstanding ownership group," Buckley said in relation to discussions with potential owners over the past few months.

He stressed all domestic and international competitions had clubs that at times had financial issues.

"The A-League is not immune to that, we see that in the NRL, we see that in the AFL, we see that in international football," Buckley said.

"No one is immune to the global economic conditions and I'm pretty confident that now that we've got this out of the way that the A-League will prosper for the next season ahead."

Buckley felt private ownership of an A-League club by an individual could still work despite what had happened in Wellington.

"There's an obvious benefit in having a broader range of shareholders rather than just relying on one individual, we've seen that model work effectively in a number of different clubs," Buckley said.

"But having said that a single owner model can work if there's good governance structures, if there's good management structures and there's good management practices.

"It's not one size fits all."

He said the immediate priority was consolidating the financial status of the 10 A-League teams and they could talk about new clubs after the current season.

Buckley hailed the "massive contribution"' made to the A-League and New Zealand football of Serepisos, who in 2007 took control of the NZ Knights, moved the franchise from Auckland to Wellington and adopted the Phoenix brand.

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