Sat, Mar 03, 2012 - Page 18 News List

FIFA, AFC back FFA in its duel with mining magnate

AP, Sydney

Billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer speaks at a press conference in Brisbane, Australia, on Thursday where he announced the formation of Football Australia, an independent organization to oversee Australian soccer.

Photo: AFP

FIFA and regional governing body the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have thrown their support behind Football Federation Australia (FFA) after the launch of a rival body by billionaire businessman Clive Palmer.

Palmer stepped up his fight with the FFA on Thursday with the launch of a new organization, Football Australia, headed by former A-League chief Archie Fraser and with the stated aim of replacing the FFA.

The FFA this week terminated the license for Palmer’s A-League team Gold Coast United after he made comments heavily critical of the FFA, the national league and the sport.

In a statement yesterday, the AFC said it recognizes only the FFA “as the official affiliated member association representing Australian football in Asia.”

“According to the AFC statutes, only one national association shall be officially recognized in each country by the AFC,” the statement said. “Accordingly, the AFC will only recognize and deal with the FFA on all football matters concerning Australia.”

FIFA echoed that stance, saying it would only back one association in each country — and, in Australia, that is the FFA.

Palmer issued a statement on Thursday saying Football Australia aimed to replace the FFA, which he said was “incompetent at both a domestic and international level.”

At a press conference minutes later, the mining magnate said his new body would act as a watchdog and forum for ideas in the sport.

“What does Football Australia plan to do? It plans to publish papers, hold press conferences, seek opinions, lobby the government, lobby the FFA for a better outcome for Australians and the game in Australia,” Palmer said.

“The FFA has lurched from one disaster to another and needs to be replaced,” the statement quoted Palmer as saying. “They staged a hugely embarrassing World Cup bid which blew A$46 million [US$50 million] of taxpayers’ money for one vote and they are running an A-League competition which is bleeding money from club owners.”

FFA chief Ben Buckley responded in a statement describing Palmer’s assertions as “an array of unsubstantiated claims and wild commentary.”

“At this stage, the FFA does not intend to respond to this farcical outburst, which is clearly intended to deflect attention from the real issue — that Gold Coast United FC Pty Ltd under Clive Palmer has shown that it will not comply with the rules and regulations of the competition in accordance with the agreement they signed,” Buckley said.

The relationship between Palmer and the FFA had long been strained, but it began to build to a head last month when the Gold Coast owner was quoted in a newspaper describing the team as insignificant, the competition as a joke and rating rugby league as a better game.

He later said his comments on soccer were taken out of context, but he did not back away from his criticism of the A-League and its administration.

He added to that on Wednesday by claiming that “the sport should not be run by dictators like [Frank Lowy]” even as he called the FFA chairman an “institution” in Australian soccer.

Gold Coast put up a “Freedom of Speech” sign at its ground and on its playing strip, triggering the decision to expel the club from the league.

Lowy said the FFA had been “left with no alternative” than to cancel Gold Coast’s license due to Palmer’s “flagrant disregard” for A-League regulations.

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