Wellington Phoenix have announced that their A-League Women's squad will not get the chance to play in New Zealand this season. The club still hope to bring the Men's side home this year.
The inaugural A-League Women's season for the Wellington Phoenix will be held entirely abroad. The club were hoping to return their women's side to New Zealand to play in front of home fans, but have announced this will not be possible in 2021-22.
Wellington Phoenix Women's Season
- The 2021-22 A-League Women's season is the inaugural campaign for the Phoenix.
- Wellington had hoped that their new side would get the chance to play in front of home fans.
- Attempts to get a New Zealand based game have been abandoned.
More A-League Women's news can be found on The Women's Game.
While it was always within Wellington Phoenix's plans to spend the majority of the 2021-22 A-League Women's season based in New South Wales, the club had hoped to return their side to New Zealand at the end of the campaign to play in front of home fans.
However, extensions in border restrictions and Trans-Tasman quarantine restrictions have ended the chances of the league's newest club to accomplish this goal. Phoenix's organization have now announced that they will not be pursuing a home game for their women's side.
Club general manager David Dome expressed the organization's disappointment:
"Given the current border restrictions and impossible isolation requirements on trans-Tasman sports teams, there is no chance of there being a Liberty A-League Women’s match in Aotearoa.
“On Friday night we saw history in the making and something incredibly special – the first ever win by a New Zealand professional women’s football team – and there was no chance that it could have been in New Zealand due to current border restrictions.
“That’s incredibly sad for all of us – the club, the players, supporters and our commercial partners.”
The decision will likely be a big blow for the Kiwi Phoenix women players. The club have eleven New Zealanders signed to the side, the maximum allowed by the Australian Professional Leagues.
Those eleven Kiwi players, most of whom are extremely young, will have spent the entirety of their four month campaign abroad without their friends and family having the chance to see them play in person.
Wellington Phoenix women are not the only sporting organization to be recently hit by New Zealand's border policies. The Constellation Cup between the Australian Diamonds and Silver Ferns was cancelled late last year.
The Women's Ashes was hurriedly pushed forward so that both the Australian and English women's national cricket teams would have the time to head to New Zealand and quarantine ahead of the upcoming 50-over Women's World Cup.
Dome and the Wellington Phoenix organization also took aim at the Government of New Zealand, expressing a requirement for more "proactive and innovative in their decision making."
“Professional sport is a business and like many New Zealand businesses that rely on the free transfer of people, goods and services, and capital across our border we need proactive solutions for the re-opening of borders, not the rigid, no flexibility mindset that currently dominates decision making,” Dome stated.
“No one in sport is asking for special favours but the trans-Tasman competitions like Super Rugby, the NRL, NBL and A-Leagues stimulate the flow of money in the economy, especially in the hospitality and tourism sectors, which have been hit hard by COVID.
“We need Government officials to proactively work with the private sector, to think laterally to find solutions and start making proactive decisions that are real world based, so we can return live sport with crowds to the benefit of the broader community.”
While the women's side cannot be helped this season, they hope that their men's side will not have to experience the same fate.
The A-League Men's Phoenix are currently going through their second season playing abroad. Dome did add that despite the current challenges, the club does still hope to bring the Phoenix Men home during this current 2021-22 campaign:
“While we hold hope, albeit small, that there could still be Isuzu Ute A-League Men’s games in New Zealand before the end of the season."
Wellington Phoenix women have three games remaining in their first season. Currently last in the ladder, they cannot make the A-League finals. The Men's squad is seventh in the ladder, with more than half the 2021-22 season yet to be played.
The full A-League Women's schedule can be found using this link.