O'Neill ruled off-side by FFA Print
Written by Philip Micallef, TheWorldGame   
Tuesday, 18 March 2008 15:09

John O'Neill

Former Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief executive John O'Neill's assertion that Sydney should aspire to stage the 2018 World Cup final has drawn a veiled rebuke from College Street.

O'Neill, chairman of Events NSW which is a body set up by the Iemma Government to market Sydney and NSW as a leading global events destination, was reported as saying that Australia should go for the World Cup and Sydney should aim to hold the final because the country proved it was capable of holding big events by successfully staging the 2000 Olympics and 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Coming three weeks after the FFA announced its intention to bid for the 2018 World Cup, O’Neill's comments caught Australian football's governing body by surprise.

CEO Ben Buckley said that the FFA was the only organisation entitled to lead and manage any bid to host the World Cup or other international tournaments.

"Only the national member association of FIFA - in this case, the FFA - is entitled to make the bid on behalf of a country," Buckley declared.

"While backing from the Australia and state and territory governments, including government entities such as Events NSW, is important and appreciated, the overall bid strategy will be led and managed entirely by the FFA."

"I am encouraged to know of Mr O'Neill's support for the 2018 World Cup in the light of his other position as Australian Rugby Union chief executive."

"If we are successful in 2018, there will be some disruption to the winter football codes and it is good to know that the ARU already understands the prestigious nature of an event such as the FIFA World Cup."

Another senior FFA official said O'Neill was clearly out of line in his independent stance over the World Cup.

"It is very difficult to understand where Mr O'Neill is coming from because for Sydney to get the final Australia would have to win the right to stage the whole event in the first place," the official added.

The FFA is deeply concerned that anything but a common and unilateral bid for the 2018 World Cup would play into the hands of football giants England, who are favourites to land the event for the first time since 1966.

The task of beating such a formidable opponent is tough enough as it is and the last thing the FFA needs is another organisation working independently towards the same goal.

O'Neill worked wonders for football in a short time, playing a key role in the establishment of the A-League, Australia's entry into the Asian Football Confederation and helping the Socceroos qualify for their first World Cup in 32 years.

However, he parted company with the FFA in 2007 after falling out with chairman Frank Lowy over managerial issues.

Several efforts to contact O'Neill were unsuccessful.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2008 15:37