Friday, July 15, 2005

Oceania Confed moots life after Australia

A lengthy World Cup qualifying process via Asia and an international club competition styled on the UEFA Champions League are on the drawing board at the Oceania Football Confederation. FIFA's smallest confederation is also in talks with New Zealand Soccer about relocating across Auckland to North Harbour Stadium to create a "home of football" that would include a state-of-the-art youth academy.

Oceania general secretary Tai Nicholas unveiled the developments yesterday after a series of meetings with FIFA in Frankfurt last month. He reportedly confirmed Oceania was eyeing a World Cup qualifying series between the confederation's top six to seven countries on a home-and-away basis over three years. Oceania will also lobby FIFA to shift its World Cup playoff from South America to Asia, a path likely to be opened after Australia's departure to the Asian Football Confederation.

The Oceania Champions League, meanwhile, is mooted to begin in 2007 as New Zealand is locked in to host the final Oceania Club Championship playoffs next May. It would involve the respective club champions from eight countries playing home and away over three months, with the winner qualifying for the FIFA World Club Championships held in Japan each December. The tournament would be funded by an annual FIFA grant of US$500,000 with prizemoney a possibility if Oceania can find additional sponsorship.