Oceania finally shuts door on A-League NZ Knights

Oceania Football Confederation general secretary Tai Nicolas has announced the strong probability that two clubs of the semi-pro New Zealand Football Championship will be invited into future OFC Champions Leagues starting with the 2007-2008 play-offs next October. The winner of the OFC round-robin, against amateur sides of the Pacific Islands, qualifies automatically for the financial rewarding FIFA's World Club Championship. "It is now our intention to invite two New Zealand teams into future OFC Champions Leagues. They will then find their two teams by April and then have seven months to prepare for the FIFA Club Championship. We see a strong New Zealand presence as vital. We have been talking to Maori Television about having games live," Nicolas said.

According to Terry Maddaford of the NZ Herald, when the opportunity to play in the world club championship was first handed to Oceania, it was envisaged that should the professional A-League club, New Zealand Knights, finish in the top three in the Australian championship, they would be given the opportunity to play-off for an Oceania spot. "That never happened and now it seems the door has been shut," he said.

Maddaford also reported that the Knights had sounded out the OFC about getting an automatic OFC Champions League spot but, "wile they were considered, it appears the OFC opted to back the NZFC as the premier competition in this part of the world in the hope there would be a growing presence of island nation players."

Waitakere United chairman Rex Dawkins said having a second NZFC team and omitting the Knights would strengthen the NZFC. "With this opportunity, franchises will have the confidence to invest in the NZFC and attract sponsors," said Dawkins. "It is unfortunate that the Knights play in [the A-League] a competition aligned to Asia."

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