Japanese team confirmed for 2006 Club World Cup

New Zealand Soccer has "reluctantly accepted" a re-jigged draw for December’s Club World Championships in Japan. According to the football association's official website, the FIFA Executive Committee has finally ruled that the winner of Japan’s J-League will play the representative of the Oceania Football Confederation in a sudden-death, preliminary match to the tournement of regional club champions.

NZ Soccer chief executive Graham Seatter "understands the reasoning behind FIFA’s decision as Australia’s departure to the Asian Football Confederation on 1 January left Oceania as the only confederation without a professional league. FIFA fear Oceania’s amateur representative will be embarrassed on the pitch by the financial might of clubs such as Liverpool who played in last year’s tournament as European champions", the website reported.

“Whilst we’re obviously disappointed Oceania’s champion has lost its place in the main draw, we understand FIFA’s reasons and have to accept an amateur team is likely to struggle in an environment with professional clubs,” it quoted Seatter. “The Oceania winner still gets their trip to Japan and hopefully they’ll make the tournament proper anyway.”

However, this appears to contradict a statement by the CFC Organising Committee on 16 February that the Oceania Football Confederation itself "requested that the committee consider modifying its entry into the competition in order to assist the development of the region's club teams."

The OFC and NZ Soccer are left to fight a further move by FIFA to halve the US$1 million pay for Oceania’s first qualifier to US$500,000 because of the inclusion of the Japanese team. “We’ve made the point to FIFA that Oceania as a confederation struggle for money at the best of times and to take away this opportunity to receive significant revenue would be a very negative outcome,” Seatter said.

See also: Japan still pushing for local team in Club World Cup (21 Mar) and Oceania 'request' changes FIFA 2006 Club Cup (20 Feb) and FIFA 'to allow' host team at 2006 Club World Cup (14 Feb) and Sao Paulo crowned FIFA's Club World Champions (19 Dec)