Pacific football clubs happy with revamped OFC Champions League
Pacific clubs are encouraged by changes made to Oceania's premier club football competition.
The expanded Oceania Champions League has been given the thumbs up by smaller football clubs in the Pacific.
A record 16 teams will compete in Oceania's revamped premier club competition, while more home matches in the islands are also on the cards.
Vinnie Wylie reports
Vanuatu champions Amicale FC have previously criticised the $US7,000 entry fee imposed on teams and the decision to play the tournament in one central location, denying clubs the chance to play at home and boost revenue. From next year, a record 16 teams will take part in the group stage, in four groups being contested at four different venues, with the semis and final to be played home and away. Amicale's technical director Anthony Pisano says the chance to play in front of their home supporters is well overdue.
ANTHONY PISANO: That's something that we've been pushing for for the last couple of years because it's very important that we are able to give something back to our fans and our sponsors and have the opportunity to generate revenue. The O-League has a lot of interest here in Vanuatu and this move gives us a lot of good marketing opportunities, especially if we are able to host games locally here.
Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu will each get a second team in the main draw from next season, joining Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The Deputy Chief Executive of the Solomon Islands Football Federation, Joseph Boso, says it's an exciting step forward for local clubs but also a challenge.
JOSEPH BOSO: I think overall it will really boost the local league, give more momentum for the competition, because their are now two spots to fight for so I think it's great news for us but at the same time it also indicates that we will have to really work hard to make sure that clubs that qualify from Solomon Islands do have the capacity to not only participate but be the top competitive clubs in the competition.
For the first time, the top two teams from the Preliminary Competition will also take part.This involves the national league champions of American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga. Cook Islands champions Tupapa Maraerenga finished one step shy of the main draw in three of the past four seasons. Club President John Paul Wilson says the change offers that little bit more incentive.
JOHN PAUL WILSON: It's just full on (playing in the Preliminary event). You have to play three games in one week, which I think only in Oceania that does that. Apart from that we just have to make sure we just prepare well for this one at least now we know that first/second will go through to the next stage...it gives us something to look forward to instead of just only one from the first round to go through. At least it gives another team from the bottom four (countries) to actually go and experience what it is like.
Amid all the changes, the prize remains the same. Auckland City won their sixth consecutive OFC Champions League crown in April and will represent the region at December's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
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