With the A-League season just about a third of the way gone the table has taken shape and it is delivering two very clear verdicts. Adelaide United are playing very well, Sydney FC are playing very poorly.

The former continue to top the table after a 0-0 draw at Gold Coast United, whilst Sydney lost once again, 3-1 to their bitter rivals Melbourne Victory in the Victorian capital. Adelaide are six points clear at the top on 22 points, although that may yet be shaved when Brisbane Roar play their game in hand, whilst Sydney are wallowing on four points, without a win, 18 points off the pace for the championship and ten off even a playoff spot.

That last playoff spot is currently taken by Wellington Phoenix whose return of 14 goals is undone by virtue of having conceded 15. Three wins, three draws and four losses suggest the New Zealand-based side are at least consistent in their inconsistency, but there is more to this record than the table suggests.

Amid a “ticket scam crisis” at the club, the launching of a new national league and the implication of a top Oceanic official in World Cup bid vote selling in return for a football academy in Auckland, Wellington have done something special, recording their 24th straight unbeaten result at a single venue. Not since Sydney United in the old NSL have a team gone unbeaten for so long, their 23 game run at the Sydney United Sports centre ending in 1999.

That Wellington Pheonix were able to do this speaks much of the siege mentality they have developed at home, as well of course the fact that their location necessitates that their opponents fly overseas to verse them.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was much heralded after the last World Cup for his work with the New Zealand national team, and many commentators thought perhaps this would be the last they’d see of the 49-year-old before he flew off for a well deserved big payday in the sun, wherever that was. Instead Herbert committed himself both to the national and to his domestic team, leading them onwards towards this momentous record.

In the background however, is some discontent. For all the limelight the All Whites and Wellington may be hogging, the domestic game continues to be neglected. With an opportunity to revamp the league and perhaps foster a new sense of professionalism, NZ Soccer instead just rebranded, turning the New Zealand Football Championship into the RBS Premiership and invoking certain conditions regarding youth players to encourage development.

Essentially this is the same format with a new name; it is hard to see how this rebranding will benefit the game in New Zealand or lead to the greater good of the All Whites. In fact the most newsworthy part of the whole scheme is how un-newsworthy it is. Some, like the New Zealand Herald’s Michael Brown think a trick has been missed here to better the game. “The success of the national team has really only papered over the cracks.” he said recently, referring to their unbeaten campaign in South Africa, before going on to rightly question what there was to be gained from a 14 round national competition.

The subtext of this revamp is a belief that football will never really be hugged close to the New Zealanders’ hearts in the same way both rugby codes are, and that trying will just be a new way to lose money. It is this which makes the ticket scam so intriguing, for it seems that Wellington fans are buying children’s tickets and sneaking into the games for less than half price.

Seemingly there is no validation at the gates, meaning it is unknown quite how widespread the problem is. Whilst on the one hand this may be lost revenue for a club that finished last year about a million NZ dollars down, it may also represent a boost in income from cheapskates who wouldn’t come otherwise.

A club spokesman continues to deny this is a big issue, but director Guy Smith did point out on Radio New Zealand “that the risk is that at a time when the Phoenix need to start turning a profit, people are going to do them out of money and that could have a flow-on effect for the long-term viability of the Phoenix.”

It is unclear whether this is a storm in a tea cup or a serious issue, but Oceania Football Federation boss Reynald Temarii’s error was more clear cut. He has done the right thing by going straight to Sepp Blatter and asking for an ethics investigating after Britain’s Sunday Times filmed him appearing to haggle for his vote. Prime Minister John Key has weighed in, pointing out that Mr Temarii is not a New Zealander and that this is an Oceania issue, with Auckland’s mention as the base for a possible football academy incidental.

With so much focus all of a sudden away from football it was necessary for Wellington to show why the real story was on the pitch and they duly broke the unbeaten home record against Melbourne Heart and showed fight until the end. Chris Greenacre smashed in an opener early for the Phoenix before John Aloisi and Matt Thompson nudged the visitors ahead. Leo Bertos was to have the last word however, curling the ball in with what looked a lot like an assist from a freakishly strong gust of wind.

Next up for Wellington Phoenix is a trip to Adelaide and a chance to stop them breaking a record of their own. The South Australians are chasing 13 straight games undefeated and it would be hard to bet against them at home. Whatever the result, it is a month before the next home game for the Phoenix, and they might be hoping football is back to minority coverage by their return.