This Friday the Wellington Phoenix play their first home game since Football Federation Australia’s refusal to grant them a ten-year license extension to play in football’s A-League. Right now, Wellington is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.
It was a remarkable press conference. Two weeks ago A-League CEO David Gallop sat a desk and calmly hammered the nails into the Phoenix’s coffin. He was emotionless. He sat there like a silver-topped cadaver. There were threats! None were veiled.
Gallop, no stranger to controversy during his time at the helm of the NRL, didn’t mince words. He called the Phoenix ‘squatters’ and when pressed for reasons behind his refusal to grant the club a ten-year extension, he talked of ‘metrics’ and he talked of things which would make them “sit up and take notice”.
He talked about crowds. Or, in the case of the Phoenix, he talked about a lack thereof.
What he didn’t talk about was passion. What he didn’t expect was the Yellow Fever. What he failed to imagine was arguably the biggest fan mobilisation drive in the history of the capital – if not New Zealand – sport. What he could not have envisaged was #scarfwellington!
Photo Courtesy @ShaneHarmon
Knitwear as art! Advertising as protest! It calls for a rhyme!
Oh yes! They scaled high rises and they slung them from rails; they are tied to the windows and the Cuba Street pails. The mayor was involved, her deputy too, they hung them from statues – anywhere with a view.
The demand for scarves almost outstripped supply, there were scarves flapping centrally and in Rongotai. Outside council chambers! Shouted Celia Wade-Brown, and on the Solace and Sea by the harbour downtown.
On the bridge with the padlocks and lamp posts and trees, on bus stops and walkways they swung in the breeze. They were probably a dozen a dollar from China but the sight of these scarves – well there was nothing finer!
And why you may ask would the fans be so proud? Because the Wellington Phoenix could do with a crowd.
Good God! That is enough!
Photo Courtesy @justin_lester
All that needs saying is this: it is one thing to festoon the city in knitwear, it is quite another to impress the powers that be with the requisite attendance numbers. Wellington has often been criticised for not showing up. The city and its football fans can ill-afford to live up to their apathetic reputation now.
This Friday shapes as the most important game in the nine-year history of the club, not so much for what might happen on the field (although a win would be nice) but for how many fans descend on Westpac Stadium to watch. A five-figure crowd is an absolute must says one source close to the club.
You’d think those five figures would look even better if the first of them was the number 2.
Photo Courtesy @YellowFever_NZ
For two weeks, social media (at least the part of it associated with the Yellow Fever and the ‘Nix) has raged with angst and anger about the potential demise of Wellington Phoenix Football Club. But now the walk must be walked – namely Fran Wilde Walk for those unfamiliar with a trip to the home of the Phoenix.
The FFA may prove immune to the sentimentality of the club’s well-worn fans. But they are not immune to good business. Somehow this goodwill must translate to the turnstiles.
Scarves on statues are a good start. Now for the bums on seats.
Wellington Phoenix play Adelaide United, 7.30pm, Friday 13 November, Westpac Stadium
Featured Image courtesy of @AJSheterline