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Statement on FIFA decision reversing direct entry for Oceania.

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I'm very disappointed that FIFA has reversed its decision to allow the Oceania group winner direct entry into the next world cup in Germany in 2006.

The original decision, some seven months ago on direct entry for Oceania, was described as 'correcting an implicit injustice.'

The decision is therefore unfair. It is a blow for Australia and Australian soccer fans.

I have noted the comments of FIFA Oceania President Basil Scarcella that one of the reasons given for the about face was that the Soccer Australia governing body was in disarray.

Whilst understanding that FIFA global politics had a lot to with the decision, obviously this is another clear signal that the game must improve its governance in Australia and that the sooner the recommendations of the Crawford Review are implemented, the better.

Clearly the delaying tactics over the past few months have not been helpful and have raised concerns within the FIFA hierarchy about the administration of the game here.

I would hope, however, that the FIFA Governing body will recognise the efforts being made in Australia to reform the game here and enter into constructive dialogue with the new Soccer Australia administration being led by Frank Lowy, to be elected later this month.

The Government will be working with the new Board of Soccer Australia to achieve direct entry for Oceania.

29 June 2003 MELBOURNE

Media contact: Richard Wise Minister's Office 03 9650 7274 or 0438 204 554