Date changes unlikely for Wellington Phoenix

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2012

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A Wellington Phoenix plea to rearrange the A-League calendar is expected to fall on deaf ears.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) is mulling over a Phoenix request to shift the dates of their games against Melbourne Heart (October 14) and Newcastle Jets (March 23).

Both games fall inside Fifa's international window and the Phoenix stand to be badly affected because of their heavy international contingent.

As well as being coached by All Whites boss Ricki Herbert, the club has six New Zealand internationals on its roster in addition to Solomon Islands striker Benjamin Totori. It makes for a logistical nightmare as both the All Whites and the Solomon Islands play Oceania stage three World Cup qualifiers on October 12 and 16 and then March 22 and 26.

The Phoenix argue that the clash compromises the integrity and quality of the league, given the club may have to field severely understrength teams. While discussions are ongoing, it is understood a change to the draw is unlikely.

"FFA has a policy for the Hyundai A-League not to break for Fifa dates," a federation spokesman said yesterday. "We are in discussion with the club in relation to the clashes, however, at this stage, no change has been made in the 2012-13 season draw."

Should the draw remain the same, Herbert has signalled his intention to try and juggle resources between club and country.

That puts the ball at the feet of New Zealand Football (NZF) chief executive Grant McKavanagh.

Under the contractual arrangement, Herbert is an NZF employee during Fifa windows while clubs are obligated to release players for international duty.

McKavanagh had said NZF was committed to the All Whites fielding the "strongest side possible" for all the World Cup qualifiers. However, he was waiting for the FFA to make an official decision before firming up plans with Herbert.

While the Phoenix have every right to feel aggrieved by the FFA scheduling, it should not have come as a great surprise given Australia is a member of the Asian Football Confederation.

Any attempts to amend the original draw would no doubt raise the ire of the Heart and the Jets, and make a messy situation worse.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand venues for the three home World Cup qualifiers are not expected to be announced until the end of the month as NZF continues discussions with stadium officials.

The NZF review into last month's failed Oceania Nations Cup campaign is under way.

However, it is likely to take some time as players are tracked down around the world.

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- The Dominion Post

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