Phoenix season set to resume in mid-July

The Wellington Phoenix are set to resume their season in mid-July. Photo: Getty Images
The Wellington Phoenix are set to resume their season in mid-July. Photo: Getty Images
The Wellington Phoenix have started making plans to complete their best ever A-League campaign.

Pending sign-off from broadcaster Fox Sports, the season will resume in mid-July with the remaining 29 regular season games and the 5-match finals series all completed in a bumper five-week window by late August.

The teams will be based for the most part in a central hub, almost certainly in greater Sydney, with Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah and WIN Stadium in Wollongong reportedly the match venues.

"I can tell you without a shadow of doubt our players are amped and ready to go," said Phoenix General Manager David Dome.

"There is a sense of unfinished business around [this season] and the players are fully aligned and committed.

"Our captain Steven Taylor is an inspiration with what he wants to do around the Phoenix and the success he wants to bring to this club.

"He is absolutely adamant we are going to do something special this year and I believe him."

When the season was called to a halt in mid-March, Wellington were third on the table, just four points behind second-placed Melbourne City with three games in hand. They'd won their last four matches, equalling a club record.

In an attempt to finish the season, the squad relocated to Sydney following their last outing, a 3-0 win over against Melbourne Victory on March 15, but returned home when the competition was suspended nine days later.

The new proposal to finish the season will require a similar commitment from the Phoenix. They'll travel to Australia next month, spending their first two weeks in quarantine before moving to their permanent base. Training would be allowed for the entire four weeks.

When the season was halted, the squad dispersed for lockdown with some players returning to Wellington and others staying in Australia. Imports Ulises Davila and Gary Hooper returned home to Mexico and the UK respectively.

The Phoenix hope to take a squad of 23 players and 10 support staff to Australia next month, including Davila and Hooper.

"Both players have signalled their desire to come back and re-join the group which we're really pleased with," said Dome.

"There's a whole lot of uncertainty which makes it more difficult than it otherwise would be, including when we can get them back, getting them work visas for Australia and the issues around remuneration.

"Hopefully [the detail] will be worked out in the next week or so."

The 11 clubs also expect to see a draft draw in the next few days with the Phoenix's schedule among the most onerous. Wellington have six regular season games remaining against Sydney FC, Newcastle, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Western Sydney.

Sydney FC, Perth and Western United are in a similar situation to the Phoenix with six matches left to play. By contrast, Melbourne City have just three games remaining and Brisbane, Newcastle and Central Coast four. Adelaide, Western Sydney and Melbourne Victory have five games left in their campaigns.

With the season pushed back, agreement has also been struck to extend the contracts of several dozen players across the league who come off contract on Sunday (May 31) until the end of August. All players will also face pay-cuts with the quarterly payment from Fox Sports to the clubs significantly reduced.

The relationship between Fox and the FFA has grown increasingly fractious in recent times with the cash-strapped broadcaster reportedly looking to heavily reduce their investment for the remaining three years of the current A-League broadcast deal. Even getting sign-off on the proposal for completing this season isn't a fait accompli.

"I'm not close enough to those negotiations. They're being led by the A-League and FFA and the guys having those conversations are hopeful," Dome said.

"Obviously the NRL started last night and they've extended that agreement [until 2027].

"Hopefully the A-League is seen in the same way and they see value in Australasian football and want to see the season resumed and back on TV."

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