High Commissioner of New Zealand to the United Kingdom Sir Lockwood Smith has welcomed West Ham United's Carlsberg Football United Tour to his homeland.
Sir Lockwood, who took up his diplomatic post in London in 2013 following a long and illustrious political career, said his fellow countrymen and women would enjoy the visit of the Hammers - and Newcastle United - this summer.
West Ham and Newcastle each take on A-League sides Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC, with fixtures taking place across New Zealand's North and South Island. The Hammers face the Phoenix at Eden Park in Auckland on 23 July before tackling Sydney FC as part of a double-header at the Westpac Stadium in the capital city Wellington on Saturday 26 July.
With Newcastle also taking on the Phoenix at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on South Island on 22 July, Sir Lockwood said football fans throughout the country would delight in the opportunity to catch the two Barclays Premier League teams in action.
However, he expects his fellow New Zealanders to take the side of Wellington and Sydney when the Hammers take to the pitch against the A-League pair in July.
"It's fantastic to see two Premier League teams, West Ham United and Newcastle United, planning to visit New Zealand in July," said Sir Lockwood, who served as Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives between 2008 and 2013 and as a Member of Parliament for 29 years.
"Sport is one of those things that ties New Zealand and the UK closely together. The rivalries between our two countries are well entrenched in sports like rugby, cricket and netball and it's great to see this visit bringing a focus on football, or as we Kiwis say, 'soccer', too.
"New Zealanders are passionate about sport and I'm sure they'll turn out in huge numbers for the opportunity to see teams of this calibre play on home soil, though you probably won't see too many Kiwis blowing bubbles!"
Tickets for West Ham's two Carlsberg Football United Tour matches are available to buy here.
BUY YOUR FOOTBALL UNITED TOUR TICKETS I PACKAGES
Football United Tour
Wellington Phoenix v West Ham United
Wednesday 23 July 2014, 7.30pm (local time)
Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand
Sydney FC v West Ham United
Saturday 26 July 2014, 2pm (local time)
Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand