Both West Ham United and Newcastle United will play pre-season fixtures against A-League clubs (Australian-league) the Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC in a football event never before seen in New Zealand.
Football United Tour
Billed as the Football United Tour, the feast of football action is set for Dunedin and Auckland before finishing off at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium. Here history will be made as the four clubs play a ground-breaking double header - marking the first time two English Premier League clubs will play on the same ground, on the same day, in the Southern Hemisphere.
Game one will see Newcastle United take on two-time A-League champions Sydney FC at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on 22 July. West Ham United will take on the Wellington Phoenix a day later (23 July) at Auckland’s Eden Park before the teams head to Wellington, New Zealand capital city, for the double-header showpiece - Sydney vs West Ham and the Phoenix vs Newcastle on 26 July.
Wellington Phoenix Chairman Rob Morrison and Wellington’s Mayor Celia Wade-Brown have expressed their delight at bringing over two high-profile teams from one of the most watched and supported football leagues in the world.
"The Wellington City Council is delighted to work with the Phoenix on bringing this great sporting contest to the Capital. Our stadium's location is ideally suited to a big match and ‘the beautiful game’ will be fully celebrated in a Football Festival for everybody," Wade-Brown said.
Player of significance
West Ham’s visit to New Zealand is also of great significance to one of their main players. Defender Winston Reid - one of the most pivotal players during the New Zealand All Whites heroic World Cup campaign in 2010 - is one of a growing number of New Zealand international players making their mark on the world footballing stage.
"I’m really excited to be bringing West Ham to New Zealand in July to play a bit of footy in the Football United Tour and show them how we do things in New Zealand!" Reid said.
"New Zealand is a beautiful country full of great people and I’m sure all the West Ham players, staff and supporters who make the trip will have a fantastic time.
"Football is really on the up in both New Zealand and Australia and we are all looking forward to meeting all the fans and playing exciting matches against two leading Hyundai A-League clubs."
First time to NZ
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is also excited about bringing a team to New Zealand for the very first time.
"We’ve been busy putting together the best pre-season preparation that I’ve had, and it’s great that we’re able to go to New Zealand as a key part of that," Allardyce said.
"The tournament in New Zealand is particularly interesting; as it allows us to promote West Ham United and the Premier League over there…It’ll be great for our fans in the region to see us play."
Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew, said: "We are very much looking forward to being part of the Football United Tour and to training and playing at first class facilities in Dunedin and Wellington."
"Football has grown impressively in both New Zealand and Australia in recent years, with some excellent players and teams coming to the fore, so the Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC fixtures will provide a good test for our players as we prepare them for next season."
Festival of Football
Wellington will also host a ‘Festival of Football’ throughout the day as supporters and spectators get ready to watch the action.
The Football United Tour is just the tip of the iceberg for New Zealand as the country gets set to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015. One of the most exciting tournaments in world football, the FIFA U-20 World Cup will showcase rising stars of the beautiful game, while giving visitors the chance to experience one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
During the three-week tournament (30 May - 20 June 2015) New Zealand will play host to 24 international teams, over seven host cities, with a total of 52 matches played.