Tuesday, June 19, 2007

NZ to back A-League Wellington's road to CWC

New Australian A-League club Wellington Phoenix is unique in global football. It is the only club to be based in one continental confederation (Oceania) while playing in a professional league in another (Asia). It is also the only professional club in the world unable to qualify for the ultimate club championship, FIFA's Club World Cup. The reason is that the Asian Football Confederation will not allow Wellington to play in the Asian Champions League if it wins its way through to be the A-League's Premier or Cup Champion; nor will Oceania allow the club to participate in its O-League.

New Zealand Football, the New Zealand football body, now wants to clear a pathway for the club to participate through Oceania. "There are discussions going on, they're not very far advanced, but from a NZF point of view we want the best club to represent the country and the region," NZF chief executive Graham Seatter told Fred Woodcock of the Dominion Post.

He pointed out that Oceania could see itself cut from the CWC if it continues to be represented by amateur clubs. FIFA president Joseph S Blatter has said there is no room for amateur teams in such a prestigious tournament, has already halved the minimum prize money available to the O-League's champion in the CWC, down to US$500,000 and made the club, this year Waitakere United, play a preliminary qualifying match against the host nation's club champions.

"This region continually has to prove itself in order to compete in tournaments," Seatter said. "If Oceania sends teams in the future who don't compete to a certain level, and there is an enormous difference between an amateur side like Auckland City and the other teams at the Club World Cup, then we might not even get that preliminary game. We need to present the best level of competition in the region on the global stage, and if that is the Phoenix then they should be there."

He agreed the amateur NZFC clubs would have concerns with such a large incentive being taken away from them, but said it would be better in the long run - for both New Zealand and Oceania. "We don't want to lose that sort of revenue to the region if we get cut out altogether," Seatter said.

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