Sydney could lose Australia World Cup qualifier

Football Federation Australia has been handed a logistical and political nightmare after last Friday's Asian Football Confederation draw which will see the Socceroos play four home matches in the final stage of the Asian qualifiers for the finals in South Africa, reports The Australian.

Sydney and Melbourne are guaranteed at least two of the matches, under current deals negotiated by FFA with the Victorian and New South Wales governments, in February and May 2006 respectively, but bitter state rivalries are expected to emerge as Sydney and Melbourne jockey to win the rights to stage the standout game against the highly rated Japanese.

FFA would like to share the four games around to take in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but the country's two biggest cities could also present serious scheduling and ground availability issues.

The success of the Cup campaign could hinge on whether the head body gets the co-operation of the Australian Rugby League (ARL) and the Australian Football League.

Logic suggests the week-apart Bahrain and Japan games will be held at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, not only to use the 83,000 stadium capacity but also to minimise the disruption to the Socceroos in terms of travelling.

But, as it stands, FFA has been forced to look at options because of a potential clash with the highly successful State of Origin.

An FFA spokeswoman said the organisation was looking into the situation and had "already started talks with the other sporting organisations".

"We are aware there are some issues in both states and we are looking into them," she said.

"There have been some preliminary discussions with the relevant bodies."

FFA is understood to have major concerns about the issue as it could not only affect the Socceroos' preparations but also impact on the financial bottom line.

Another issue is the likely state of the playing surfaces at ANZ Stadium and the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Both ANZ and the MCG have very heavy club-football traffic at this time of year, and the Socceroos are unlikely to be handed the type of even surface on which they like to play their flowing brand of football.

Despite the concerns about match scheduling, the ARL is apparently sympathetic to FFA's plight. NRL chief operations office Graham Annesley said he was hopeful a scheduling conflict could be avoided.

"The FFA has been in touch with me in the last week to notify me of proposed dates for World Cup qualifying matches next year," Annesley said.

"While those dates fall around the Origin window, we have not locked the season structure in place at this stage.

"We'll have further discussions with the ARL and our broadcasters before we commit our dates."

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