Why the Phoenix change shirts

Andrew Voerman



Stuff NZ Newspapers



A football team’s choice of playing strip usually isn’t that complicated. They predominantly wear their home kit, switching to the away kit only when they’re playing away and there is a clash with the opposition’s home kit. But when it comes to the Wellington Phoenix this season and last, that hasn’t been the case, with the commercial imperatives of sponsorship taking priority. The Phoenix men and women have played 10 home fixtures so far this summer, wearing their yellow home kit five times and their blue away kit four times, as well as a unique purple kit once as part of a mental health fundraising effort. Today, when the women host Canberra United and the men Central Coast Mariners at Sky Stadium in Wellington, they will both be wearing yellow. But the last time they had a home doubleheader, on January 2, they both wore blue, a move that left many fans puzzled. The two teams had each already worn blue once at Sky Stadium this season before that and there was further confusion a week later, when the men wore blue away to Sydney FC, famously known as the Sky Blues because of the colour of their home kit. With the Phoenix in navy blue and Sydney in light blue, it wasn’t quite a clash, but it was still an odd sight, just as it was when the Phoenix wore blue away to Melbourne City, whose home kit is also light blue, earlier in the season. The explanation from Phoenix general manager David Dome is that the club has two principal partners, Spark and Oppo, who are each guaranteed an even share of the front-of-shirt sponsorship. Oppo, a mobile phone brand, has its logo on the yellow home kit (and had it on the one-off purple kit), while Spark, the longstanding New Zealand telecommunications company, has its on the blue away kit. As a result, the Phoenix start from the position of wanting to wear blue in every away match. ‘‘We go through the entire season and work out how we can allocate 50% of the time of wearing the shirt to both of those partners,’’ Dome said. ‘‘You can’t always play in the blue away . . . That means we have to then play in yellow-and-black when we’re away and in order to balance that, it then means you then have to play a game at home in the blue to make sure that you allocate 50% of the time.’’ An obvious solution would be for the club to have versions of each kit with each sponsor. ‘‘That then doubles the amount of shirts you have to get from your supplier — and that is not an insubstantial amount of money . . .’’ Some fans have been frustrated by unexpected kit choices as they like to wear replica shirts matching those worn by the team. Dome said the Phoenix would look at signalling what kit the team would be wearing from now.