Blackburn seek to cement Kiwi fan base with New Zealand friendly
(AFP) 23 Mar 2006
Blackburn are planning to cash in on the popularity of New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen with a friendly against the All Whites at Ewood Park later this year.
Blackburn, currently challenging for qualification for next season's UEFA Cup via the Premiership, will face New Zealand on August 12, a week before the scheduled start of the 2006/07 Premiership campaign.
Rovers defender Nelsen, New Zealand's most high profile footballing export, has been a huge success with Mark Hughes's team since arriving on a free transfer from American club DC United in Janary 2005.
And Blackburn chairman John Williams admits that Nelsen's stature back in his native New Zealand, combined with the friendly game against the Kiwis, may help the club gain a lucrative foothold in the country.
Williams said: "This friendly game later this summer is something that has been in the pipeline for some time now.
"The head of football in New Zealand came over last year to see Ryan and we said we would be happy to play them in a friendly at some point.
"I think they are also due to play Charlton Athletic before the start of the season and we've agreed to pencil a date into our schedule as well.
"It's an ideal fixture for us in terms of a final warm-up game before the start of the season and it's also an opportunity for us to capitalise on Ryan's position.
"We are not getting carried away because New Zealand is a relatively small country and most of the people are either rugby or cricket fans. But we've got the captain of their national side at Ewood Park and, if we can gain some extra fans in New Zealand on the back of it, then that can only be a good thing for the club."