New soccer franchises revealed
The Board of New Zealand Soccer has announced the eight franchises for the New National League competition set to start in October.
The eight teams are Otago United, Canterbury United, Team Wellington, YoungHeart Manawatu, Napier City, Waikato FC, Auckland City and Waitakere United.
The competition will be played over a three-round format, commencing in mid-October 2004. The top three will qualify for the finals, with the winner going direct to the Grand Final at their home venue.
The Grand Final winner will represent New Zealand in the lucrative FIFA World Club Championships Oceania Qualifying Series in Tahiti, April 2005.
The winner of this tournament will represent Oceania at Japan's FIFA World Club Championships in December 2005. The draw and further details will be published in the coming weeks
New Zealand Soccer CEO Bill MacGowan, who was on the review panel, was impressed by the applications received.
It is clear that the review of the competition has sparked a great deal of thought and debate across New Zealand.
"Previously divided regions have come together in order to promote the code and ensure National League opportunities in their cities and towns.
"It has also been refreshing to see local council support with investment in facilities identified as a crucial area with regards playing standards, spectator comfort and media coverage.
"Quite simply the bar had to be raised and under the old format individual clubs couldnt carry that burden alone our National League history is littered with financial disasters and as a national body we werent prepared for that to continue.
"We were also concerned with addressing player strength and depth in geographical sense.
"History tells us that some regions do not cope with more than one National League entity with a lack of player depth leading to both struggling.
"New Zealand Soccer is able to present eight very sound financial entities with a clear commitment to providing improved facilities to players, fans and the media alike.
"All is not lost for the three applications that have missed out on the initial competition however, with plans to review after three years", said MacGowan.
"Right now eight is considered the optimum number of teams.
"The initial period of the Licences is three years after which they will be reviewed against the criteria.
"The environment at that time will dictate whether there is any change in licence holders or indeed an increase in teams.
The three applications which were not granted are: Ole Madrids (Wellington), Team Bay of Plenty, East Auckland FC.