No marquee on the horizon for Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome says the club isn’t in the market for a big name marquee despite needing to boost crowds to meet their licence extension terms.

Phoenix had the worst average crowds in the A-League last season, dropping from 8,583 per game when they finished fourth in 2014-15 to 8,042 after a ninth place finish.

As part of the club’s 10-year licence signed in February, Wellington need to meet confidential benchmarks, including improved attendances, by 2019-20, 2022-23 and 2025-26 to achieve extensions.

Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero’s arrival at Sydney FC saw the club’s average attendances rise by almost 7,000 in 2012-13.

Dome said Wellington weren’t ready to venture down that path at this stage.

“Are we looking for a marquee player that is a name player? No, not at the moment,” Dome told FourFourTwo. 

“That’s not to say we’re going to discount it. Potentially we’d look at bringing on a marquee player at some stage in the future, but not at the moment.

“We’re not going to have a marquee for the sake of a marquee. The player must fit into Ernie’s style of play and add something to the team. 

“There are obviously some financial implications to getting a marquee, in terms of expenditure and anticipated revenue. You have to be very careful in that spot.”

Dome added that Wellington crowds were more reliant on on-field results than most A-League clubs and believed investing in the squad was the key rather than a big name marquee.

“We’ve made a conscious decision that we have to spend money on players and the playing group to make sure we are challenging for the top four to get back the crowds at Westpac Stadium,” Dome said.

“Our crowds are heavily dependent on our results. We know when we are in the finals series, we can sell out Westpac and we know if we’re doing well, we can get 14 or 15,000 regularly to games when we’re in the top four. 

“On the flipside, when you’re in eighth or ninth position, you get 7 or 8,000 at Westpac Stadium which isn’t great for us.”

Dome said Wellington’s pressing off-season recruitment issue was replacing long-term centre back Ben Sigmund.

Sigmund has retired, while full-back Manny Muscat (Melbourne City) and Albert Riera have also left, with Melbourne Victory pair Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler already signed. 

“Quality centre backs are in high demand into Asia, a lot are playing up in Asia or Europe, so it’s hard to find those sorts of players,” Dome said. 

“The spine of the team is crucial to how you play and your results, so we need to get that right and we’re working very hard on that at the moment.”

He added: “We’re very conscious of the fact that Ernie plays a very expansive style and we need players to fit into his style and structure. 

“They need to be technically good players, they need to be able to play the ball out and play Ernie’s style which is good for the fans, as we’re a forward focused team. We’re going to recruit for that method.”