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Mar 25, 2005

Soccer Australia and FIFA Fiasco No 364!

It is just unbelievable how incompetent Soccer Australia is with less than one month to go before the final World Cup qualifier it is shaping up to be a ticketing fiasco.

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It is just unbelievable how incompetent Soccer Australia is with less than one month to go before the final World Cup qualifier it is shaping up to be a ticketing fiasco.

They are due to play the fifth best soccer team from the current World Cup qualifiers being played across the length and breadth of South America, with this final section scheduled for November 14th. The top four are automatically qualified for the big one; the fifth team must beat Australia to joint them.

So from November 14 (which by then will be November 15 here), we will know what country is our final hurdle to the World Cup Finals to be staged in June next year in Japan and South Korea.

Over a two-leg home and way format the Socceroos have the future well being of Australian soccer at their feet. World Cup participation in an event that means more to more people than the Olympics, would be soccer’s salvation in Australia and if we get there we might cause more than a little damage. But and it is a big but, we have to get there.

To make it as simple as possible to help marshal local support for our team in this final qualifying game here in Melbourne, a Sydney company called IEC, which markets our international games on behalf of Soccer Australia, came up with a great idea for making loads of money. At least we know that’s what they would like to do and maybe they will. But as to how much they pocket and how much will end up back in the empty coffers of Soccer Australia, that’s something that Soccer Australia themselves are still coming to terms with? They are currently reviewing the basis for the commercial arrangement originally struck between these erstwhile partners, having only just rejected a proposed Italian v Socceroos game next year on the basis that IEC’s slice was far too big.

But for the immediate goal of World Cup qualification, playing the world champions France just a week or so prior to the mystery South American team at the same venue has to be a good idea? Two great games and a chance to finally see our star-studded Socceroos field our best side since that last non-qualifying disaster at the MCG.

But to cash in on the sure-fire success of the World Cup qualifying leg, IEC decided to package up both MCG games as a double banger. If you want to go to the big one, you also have to front at least the money to also buy a ticket to watch France. Well that’s how it’s been until now, but for how much longer can they sell one potential turkey on the back of the other?

At one stage a month or two back we looked to have pulled the short straw with Brazil a real possibility to make fifth and Aussie fans were saying there goes our chance. Now it would seem if the final chips fall the way they should, the most likely team is Uruguay. But that is not yet a certainty.

So as the Socceroos prepare to fly in from around the world to play at the MCG, you would assume the months in planing to prepare us for the ultimate test would be all plain sailing. After all we’re talking about two of the biggest games locally to be played in our soccer history (let alone the return qualifying leg in South America)?

Guess again. The marketing strategy is somewhat in tatters because not a lot of people know what the hell is going on as to either of these two games. With virtually a month to go before the first “scheduled” qualifying game, there is also doubts about some of our players being available against the World and European champions, at the G on Sunday, November 11th. We are talking about our only genuine warm up game before we play a totally prepared and match hardened South American side.

So what don’t we know as you work out what you might like to do in the way of seeing our stellar Socceroos on home soil in November biting on the big one?

1: Whom do we play for World Cup place?

2: What date will the first leg be played at MCG. The proposed date is November 17, but is not yet confirmed and is coming under heavy pressure as too soon after final South American qualifiers finish on November 14 (remember that’s the 15th here).

3: Date and destination of their return leg to be concluded by no later than November 25th, which is FIFA’s final cut off date for all qualification. Everyone but FIFA agrees this deadline is impractical.

4. Warm up game against France may or may not include leading French English stars, particularly from Arsenal, with the club trying every trick in the book to keep their players from flying to Melbourne. The latest complaint from Arsenal after the French FA told them to suck their savs at their first attempt to stop their players being available, is security fears about their stars flying here. Arsenal though have no problem with the same players living and working in London or flying around major European cities to contest Champions League matches. Tell me which is the scarier proposition?

5. The public wanting to buy a ticket to the World Cup game against South America cannot currently do so unless they also purchase corresponding ticket to France.

6. There is no guarantee that some of our top players might also be unavailable to play against France because of Premier League club pressure, thanks to Arsenal also seeking the support of other clubs such as Leeds not to release their Aussie stars.

What is clear from this marketing and fixturing fiasco is what we have always known.

The soccer world is happy to snap up our cheap local talent and leave our local competition bereft of stars, while they then turn them into cash cows on the world stage. Between exploitative overseas clubs and an indifferent FIFA that treats Australia and the rest of our qualifying region of Oceania like a dog with fleas, our path to World Cup qualification is a joke. What we don’t need is the likes of Arsenal or Leeds looking after their own interests with scant regard for Australia, and the future viability of soccer in this country that now serves the English game so well.

Hopefully we might be two qualifying games away from turning next June into at least two weeks of mad anticipation for millions of Aussies as we try and impose ourselves on the world game at the highest level. So hopefully our best team will turn out against the best French team and then it’s on for young and old against that mystery fifth team out of South America.

Thanks to FIFA, Soccer Australia, IEC and a bunch of greedy, self-serving foreign clubs (read English Premier League) we don’t yet know who will turn out for the France game. Plus exactly when and who we play off against from South America, and to top it off you can’t yet buy a ticket to this game in its own right?

Well maybe you could if you are a corporate and deal with the corporate hospitality types who package up lavish deals more often than not sold off as tables of 10 at premium prices? But if you are Joe Blow Socceroos fanatic, right now go figure?

You cannot yet buy a single ticket to the biggest game of soccer in Australia virtually just one month away. A game that will hopefully see us in the first leg, begin to wipe away the bitter memory of that unforgettable night when we fell out of the World Cup to Iran four years ago at the same venue.

Ticketmaster currently offers you a premium seat to both games for $300.00 or the France game only for $180.00. They confirm they have as yet no individual game tickets to sell to the South American World Cup qualifier. This definition of premium is somewhat debatable when you source the actual locations at the ground.

Yet at whatever date is finally settled on against whichever South American team our under-prepared Socceroos must do battle, the game will be sold out. Marvel at the marketing smarts that ensures it will be so!

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