The Australian Professional Leagues (APL), the commercial and marketing body for soccer in the country, has named US businessman Bill Foley, the owner of English Premier League club Bournemouth, as its preferred bidder for a new A-League club in Auckland.     

Foley is a general partner of the Black Knight Football Club ownership group, having overseen the purchase of Bournemouth in December 2022 and NHL ice hockey's Vegas Golden Knights, as well as the acquisition of a minority stake in French top-tier soccer club Lorient FC.

Foley now plans to add another expansion team, as he did with the Vegas Golden Knights, hoping he can help found an Auckland team in time for the 2024-25 season.

The APL said it has named Foley as a preferred bidder due to his soccer ownership experience and his existing ties to New Zealand, since he owns multiple businesses in the country, including a winery, restaurant, and a luxury lodge.

Commissioner of the A-League Nick Garcia said: "The awarding of preferred bidder status is an important forward step towards new professional women’s and men’s teams in Auckland.

“Bill Foley and Black Knight Football Club are committed sports investors and bring direct elite football experience via their investment in AFC Bournemouth in the English Premier League and other European clubs.

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“Importantly, Bill is passionate about Auckland and has a long-term relationship with New Zealand through his business interests. Auckland has been the largest city in Australia and New Zealand without a professional football team, despite football being the most popular team participation sport nationally in New Zealand.

“We look forward to building on the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, providing football fans in Auckland with their new home team.”

Foley said: “My family and I have a genuine appreciation and love for New Zealand. We will look to strengthen this connection even further by acquiring an A-Leagues expansion license in Auckland, which will allow us to establish both a men’s and women’s club in the city.

“Black Knight Football Club operates with a commitment to excellence on and off the pitch. Our goal will be to build a winning organization while simultaneously serving the community and growing the sport, and passion for the sport, at all levels.

"We are extremely excited to reach this stage in the process and look forward to the next steps.”

Auckland previously had an A-League men’s team called the Football Kingz from 1999 to 2004, which was replaced by the New Zealand Knights from 2004 to 2006, ultimately resulting in Wellington Phoenix’s introduction in 2007.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth have extended their partnership with financial services company JP Morgan for another two years. 

The partnership, which started last year, will involve the organizations running collaborative initiatives to support Bournemouth's local community in the focus areas of mental health, diversity, equality and inclusion, and homelessness.

The renewal follows on from the Bounce Back project, based at Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium, supporting vulnerable adults to achieve independence through both classroom and physical activity sessions, which will be adapted to expand to a wider audience in a new initiative called Lift Off.

The initiative will aim to help people within the local community with education and support to get into the workplace, with workshops and classes focused on personal development and workplace readiness.

Additionally, the two organizations will continue with various other community engagement initiatives, such as litter picks and social events for local older people.