The war of words between Wellington Phoenix and FFA is escalating, with FFA CEO David Gallop hitting back at the Kiwi's claims the governing body is resisting change.
Wellington Phoenix Chairman, Rob Morrison, told the New Zealand Herald that Wellington Phoenix were being held back from instating positive changes in the club by the ongoing FFA governance crisis.
He made the comments in response to reports that the Nix's ownership group, Welnix, were looking to sell the club before the possibility of FFA retracting the franchise when the club's current licence expires in 2020.
"We obviously had a very disappointing season and we've acknowledged that, but the crowds were poor in the A-League, full-stop," Morrison said.
"It's indicative of where the A-League has got to. The FFA like to use us as a bit of a whipping boy and they've been public about the fact that we're a concern to them, but the bigger concern is the way the FFA run the A-League.
"The clubs are very focused on the fact the A-League needs to be run independently of the FFA. We need a new governance structure.
"Everyone with the exception of the FFA is of the view we have to make change."
This latest stoush has been developing for some time, with A-League boss Greg O'Rourke making headlines in April by launching a veiled threat at Wellington's ownership, saying he intends to find out "whether or not they're interested in improving their club."
That was in response to Wellington Phoenix owner, Gareth Morgan, who claimed on New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB, that his club's future "doesn't look great".
“We got a renewal, we’re two years into it and that was dependant on particular performance criteria, which I have to say to you right at this stage don’t look great,” he said.
“Something’s got to happen in the next two years, otherwise it’s goodbye Charlie.”
Average attendances across the scope of the A-League have plummeted this season, with over 200,000-less people attending regular-season matches in 2017/18 than the year before.
Yet Wellington's campaign attracted an average attendance of just over 5,000 people. That's less than half the competition's average and more-than 2,000 less than the next lowest club, Central Coast Mariners, despite the Nix finishing above the Mariners for each of the last four seasons.
Speaking to FourFourTwo, FFA rejected claims that they were holding back susbtantial progress, saying that Wellington have rejected the governing body's attempts to resume a dialogue.
“Rob Morrison knows perfectly well that FFA began talking to the clubs about a new ownership and operating model for the Hyundai A-League in early 2017 – more than a year ago," Gallop said.
“The FFA works on a daily basis with the clubs – including Wellington Phoenix - to improve attendance and television audiences for the Hyundai A-League. It’s a shared responsibility and some clubs are faring better than others," Gallop said.
"FFA is on the record repeatedly saying it wants a model that provides better returns to existing owners and more attractive to new investors, while taking into account the need to provide funding to the other grassroots programs that are fundamental to the overall health of the game.
"Over the past six months we have repeatedly invited them to resume talks on this. So it is simply wrong to say that FFA is resisting change.
"We have begun a process to expand the league and we will continue to engage with stakeholders around a new model for its operation.”