Owner of the A-Leagues’ newest franchise Auckland, Bill Foley has promised to bring success to the competition’s newest team.
On Tuesday, Foley was announced as the owner of the new license, which will enter the competition in 2024, with the men’s team due to join the Isuzu UTE A-League Men in Season 2024-25 and the Liberty A-League Women’s team in Season 2025-26.
The American business tycoon is the founder and general partner of Black Knight Football Club, which owns AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League and has a significant investment in FC Lorient of France’s Ligue 1.
He is also founder and owner of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights, who are the reigning Stanley Cup champions after an incredible rise since their inception in 2017.
Foley famously pledged to win the NHL’s biggest prize within six years, making good on his promise when the Golden Knights beat the Florida Panthers in the finals back in June.
The 78-year-old spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon in Auckland, bringing with him his NHL Championship ring, which he used as a symbol of what he promises to bring to the A-Leagues’ newest club.
“There’s nothing like sports, sports is the best and we intend to be a very successful franchise and sports team,” Foley said.
“I intend to bring this (pointing to his NHL Championship ring). So when we win the championship, our players will get one of these, a little out of the ordinary, but that’s my Stanley Cup championship ring.
“We started our journey with Las Vegas about seven years ago. We’ve made the playoffs five out of six years. We went to the finals twice and we won the Championship last year and it was because when we built the team, we didn’t have a group of individuals.
“We have a team that all works together and stays together and we’ll do the same process here in Auckland and we’ll do it both for the men’s team and the women’s team because we’re in this program to win. Period. No excuses. Always advance. Never retreat.”
Those four words are Foley’s philosophy for his teams.
Foley also hopes his new Auckland side can help set the wheels in motion for young players of both the men’s and women’s team to aim high and work their way into Europe, flagging a willingness to create a pathway via his multi-club ownership model.
“I love the fact that we have this A-League team here because it allows young men and young women to progress and to go to other places to play football,” he said.
“This is going to be a pathway for a lot of young people to move up, get into the A-League and then perhaps move on, go to Scotland. If they can go to the top of the pyramid, then they go to Bournemouth in the Premier League.
“We have teams that we’re working with right now in terms of making investments in Scotland and in the Netherlands. So it’s a multi-club strategy and this A-League team is going to do very, very well here.
“I’m really proud to be one of the owners, the majority owner and I’m so happy, it’s here in Auckland and here in New Zealand, which I feel is really my second home.”
Foley was asked why he decided to select a new A-Leagues team in Auckland, instead of buying into Wellington Phoenix or opting to look elsewhere at a team in Australia, believing it was a great chance for him to build something from scratch.
“No offence, but if there was an Australia expansion team, I’d have no interest,” he said.
“I like to go places where I’m familiar, where I kind of know the landscape, and I’m serious, I’m such a fan of New Zealand.
“I really thought this was a way to get involved with a football club from the ground up. We have a blank sheet of paper, everything. We’re going to hire entire staff and put it together and make it this team.
“I didn’t want to take on, not that I know them (Wellington) for sale or not for sale, but I didn’t want to get involved in the existing franchise. I’d rather just build it from the ground up and it’s exciting and I definitely want of the team in Auckland. I thought that was very important.
“This is the business hub of New Zealand and I know we’ll do really well here on the business side, we’ll do well on the community side.”
“I just set the Vegas Golden Knights out as my example and what we’ve done in that community in terms of how involved we are with three foundations, what we support, how we built youth hockey.
“It went from 250 skaters to over 5000 today and it’s because of the sheets of ice we built in our commitment to the community and if you talk to people in Las Vegas, they’ll tell you that our team is embedded in the community and they’re embedded with us and we’ll do the same thing here in Auckland.”
The club announced Nick Becker as their new Chief Executive Officer, while Mike Higgins has been appointed Chief Commercial Officer of the new franchise.
Foley confirmed they will look to announce their Director of Football Operations and new men’s coach within “a week or two”.
He did, however, admit the next 10 months “won’t be easy” as they look to get their men’s team ready for the opening day of the 2024-25 season. For this reason, he’s putting off any bold predictions about when their first piece of silverware may come.
“Let me take a look at the players we bring in and the experience level and how many visa players we have and marquee players and what their positions are,” Foley said.
“I can tell you this, we will be successful. We’re not in this to be bottom of the league. We’re in this to win.
“Within 12 months, I’ll make a prediction!”
As for whether he will have any input on the team’s name?
“I’m going to have all the input but we haven’t picked a name yet,” he said.
“We have to really go through a process and we have to make sure that whatever name we pick is going to represent New Zealand and Auckland… we just haven’t picked a name yet.
“I have a special name I like because my alma mater are the Black Knights and black is a strong statement in New Zealand, but we have a lot of other ideas on names, so it’ll take us a process.”