Texan billionaire Bill Foley has written an open letter to clubs in the northern region, sharing his vision and plans for Auckland’s A-League expansion club.
Having been accepted as the owner of the new club, Foley says he hopes players from northern clubs will become future Football Ferns and All Whites.
“With our multi-club model, this will provide a pathway for Kiwi football players to succeed here and beyond, including the (English) Premier League, he says.
Main photo: Bill Foley … ‘this is just the start …’
Bill Foley’s open letter
In his letter, Foley says:
“To the members of Northern Region Football clubs,
“I trust you share in my excitement with the news that we will be bringing an A-Leagues club and professional football to Auckland. This is a momentous occasion that brings with it the chance to build a partnership amongst us and our collective ability to create more opportunity for football at all levels, and amongst all people in Tāmaki Makaurau and Northland alike.
“Our vision for the club is to become part of the community, help inspire young people to pick up the game, and give football fans the chance to see, and follow, an elite level of the sport in your own backyard. We look forward to fielding a men’s team less than a year from now and a women’s team a year later, in the 2025-26 season.
“But we don’t plan to passively see the impact this club has. That’s not how my teams have operated in Las Vegas or Bournemouth, and won’t be in Auckland either. We will invest our time and money to promote the growth of the game throughout the community while also building for success on the pitch.
“In Las Vegas, we have invested in ice hockey facilities and put sticks in the hands of local students. The result was a more than 400% growth in youth hockey participation across the state in the short time the Golden Knights have existed. It has been extremely rewarding to witness that growth, while also celebrating the success of our professional players raising the Stanley Cup.
“We have owned AFC Bournemouth for less than a year, but have already committed to giving back to the young players in the community. We have been particularly active on the girls and women’s side and look forward to continued growth there. Meanwhile, we are moving toward completion of building a world-class training facility in Bournemouth, a key component in developing some of the best talent in the sport.
“We look forward to working with Northern Region Football, your clubs and members to co-create a similar impact in Auckland and Northland. We want to help drive growth in both the number and the quality of local players – we know this will benefit your club and ours in the long run.
“Ultimately, we hope to see some of your players competing for us in the A-Leagues and to become future Football Ferns and All Whites. With our multi-club model this will provide a pathway for Kiwi football players to succeed here and beyond, including the Premier League.
“I look forward to meeting many of you and sharing this exciting journey ahead. This is just the start of what will be a mutually beneficial partnership and one that makes football in our Northern region better than ever.”
NRF’s Laura Menzies: ‘Brilliant news’
Northern Region Football CEO Laura Menzies said:
“This is brilliant news for our football community, who will soon have professional football teams of their own to support, and local derbies with the Wellington Phoenix to look forward to. This couldn’t come at a better time, off the back of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
“Strong professional teams need a strong football community behind them, and we look forward to working with AKLFootball24 to build that connection with our clubs.
“From speaking with Bill Foley’s team, we’re excited by their track record of investing and building the grassroots game. Bill has written to our clubs today to outline his vision, and NRF looks forward to helping guide this mahi.”
Who is Bill Foley?
Foley (78) is a United States-based owner of multiple sports teams and he has strong business connections to New Zealand.
Foley is the general partner of Black Knight Football Club, which owns 100% of AFC Bournemouth of the English Premier League and a significant minority ownership interest in FC Lorient of France’s Ligue 1.
He is also the owner of other sports and entertainment assets, including the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, which was an expansion team in 2017 and won the ice hockey’s Stanley Cup in 2023.
The Texas-born former US Air Force officer and corporate lawyer has invested in a diverse portfolio of businesses that range from insurance firms, to hospitality businesses and auto parts manufacturers.
His personal net worth was estimated by Forbes magazine at US$1.6 billion in 2023.
Foley owns multiple businesses in New Zealand, including Foley Wines Ltd, a public company listed on the NZ stock exchange, consisting of five wineries in Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago, a restaurant group with venues in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, including the iconic SOUL bar in Auckland, as well as the luxury lodge Wharekauhau on the South Wairarapa Coast.