The chairman of the Australian Soccer Association (ASA), Mr Frank Lowy and Chief Executive, Mr John O’Neill, have today announced a number of significant initiatives for soccer in Australia.
The Socceroos will play in Australia for the first time in nearly three years, when they take on 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finalist Turkey at Aussie Stadium in Sydney on Friday 21 May and at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne on Monday 24 May. Turkey, ranked number 9 in the world just behind England & Argentina but ahead of Germany & Italy, will face the Socceroos prior to the critical stage 2 of the OFC World Cup qualifiers to be held in Australia between 28 May and 6 June 2004.
Following the two-match test series against Turkey, the Socceroos will take on the OFC’s best nations, as the top-two teams then qualify for the final phase of OFC World Cup qualifying in September 2005, with the OFC winner then playing-off against the fifth-placed CONMEBOL team in November 2005.
The new national competition will start in 2005 with eight teams - one team each from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Newcastle and New Zealand (Auckland), with the final team to be selected from the remaining expressions of interest. The Expressions of Interest document for the new competition will be released by ASA in mid-April, with the submission period open for six weeks until the end of May, followed by an evaluation period of a further six weeks before the eight teams are announced in mid-July.
Whilst the formal commencement of the new national competition will be July/August 2005, there will be a ‘soft’ opening season in early 2005 with a shortened format.
This will be the first stage in the development of the new national competition and will provide the basic structure for further expansion. In the second stage, ASA will actively work towards evolving a truly national competition embracing teams from all major Australian cities and regions. These could include Canberra, Hobart, Wollongong, North Queensland and others and commercial interests have already indicated a willingness to explore these options.
The third stage will involve further strengthening the game by seeking additional international club tournament opportunities – such as a Pacific Rim tournament - in Australia with regional clubs from Asia, USA and Africa from early 2006 onwards. In time, ASA hopes to build its international relationships where member clubs of Australia’s premier domestic competition will receive tournament or continental cup invitations from regional neighbours.
ASA has held a series of meetings with potential broadcasters and sponsors who have shown keen interest in the new competition but have been awaiting further detail. Today’s announcement of the structure and timing of the new league will enable negotiations to begin in earnest and ASA expects to finalise these arrangements in a timely manner.
The ASA board praised the work of the NSL Task Force which provided the framework for the new competition and will adopt many of the key NSL Task Force report recommendations, including: -
The criteria and benchmarks required to be achieved by clubs
The minimum funding required by a club
The method of selecting clubs
The process of transition to the new competition
Guaranteed five year tenure for clubs
Guaranteed five year exclusive territorial rights in all centres outside Sydney and Melbourne
The measures designed to stem the outflow of players and to attract overseas players back to Australia
For financial, structural and efficiency reasons, the board of ASA will also serve as the board of the new national competition for the first three years or so.
In addition, ASA will establish an Advisory Council in conjunction with the new domestic competition to liaise regularly with ASA. The Council will comprise people chosen from members of the NSL Task Force and of the Implementation Team and will include people experienced in the Australian soccer community.
In other developments: -
STATE PRESIDENT’S MEETING
The Chairman and Chief Executive met yesterday with State Presidents to brief them on plans for the new national competition and other developments. The meeting was a very constructive and open session that signalled a unity of purpose among the stakeholders in Australian soccer. The State Presidents were briefed first hand to the greatest extent possible and were then invited to raise any issues on behalf of their constituents.
Ron Harvey was on Saturday elected Vice President of the Oceania Football Confederation, resulting in him being appointed to the FIFA Executive Committee, and being one of only eight FIFA Vice Presidents. This is the first time an Australian has been appointed to this important position and furthers ASA’s goal of elevating the standing of OFC and Australia in the world soccer community.