Football - Soccer-Oceania Champions League revamped to generate revenue

WELLINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Oceania's representative for the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup will be decided through a new qualifying format from next year, as regional soccer officials look to reduce costs and logistical issues while attempting to generate more revenue.


The winner of the O-League represent the region at the FIFA tournament, which is currently being played in Japan with the final between European champions Chelsea and South American champions Corinthians to be played on Sunday.

The new Oceania format, which has been re-branded as the Oceania Champions League, will introduce a semi-final stage, reduce the final to a single match and condense the schedule into a six-week period from late March to mid-May.

Previously the O-League had kicked off in late October or early November with the two-legged final between the winners of two four-team groups being staged in April or May.

"Each of the clubs has three home matches and we felt it was important to keep this in place as it gives the chance for football fans from all around the region to watch their team in action," OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas said in a statement.

"It is also an important source of revenue for the clubs as it provides them with funds from gate takings and increases the opportunities for partnerships with sponsors and other investors.

"The condensed format means games will now take place every weekend, as well as mid-week matches, which also makes the competition more attractive to fans and sponsors as there are no lengthy delays between each round.

"And the introduction of semi-finals means more teams will feature in the race for the title right up until the final stages, extending the excitement levels of the fans for a longer period."

New Zealand's Auckland City represented Oceania at this year's Club World Cup but were bundled out in the first game by J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Fiji's Ba, Hekari United (Papua New Guinea), Solomon Warriors (Solomon Islands) and Amicale (Vanuatu) form Group A of the 2013 Oceania competition while Mont Dore (New Caledonia), Auckland City, Waitakere United (New Zealand) and Dragon (Tahiti) are in Group B.

The group stages will take place from March 30 to April 27 and the two-legged semi-finals scheduled for May 4 and 11. The final will be staged in Auckland on May 19.

"The start date has been set for the end of March to complement the various national leagues of the participating clubs while the condensed format eases the financial costs associated with maintaining a team over a lengthy period as in past formats," the OFC added in the statement. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O'Brien)

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