FIFA, AFC back Australia's football federation

NEIL FRANKLAND AP Sports Writer Published:

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation have thrown their support behind Australia's football federation after the launch of a rival body by billionaire businessman Clive Palmer.

Palmer stepped up his fight with Football Federation Australian on Thursday with the launch of a new organization, Football Australia, headed by former A-League chief Archie Fraser and with the stated aim of replacing FFA.

FFA this week terminated the license for Palmer's A-League team Gold Coast United after he criticized the FFA, the national league and the sport.

In a statement Friday, the AFC said it recognizes only FFA as the "as the official affiliated member association representing Australian football in Asia."

"According to the AFC Statutes, only one national association shall be officially recognized in each country by the AFC," the statement said. "Accordingly, the AFC will only recognize and deal with FFA on all football matters concerning Australia."

FIFA echoed that stance, saying it will only back one association in each country -- and, in Australia, that is the FFA.

Palmer issued a statement Thursday saying Football Australia aimed to replace FFA, which he said was "incompetent at both a domestic and international level."

At a media conference minutes later, the mining magnate said his new body will act as a watchdog and forum for ideas in the sport.

"What does Football Australia plan to do? It plans to publish papers, hold press conferences, seek opinions, lobby the government, lobby the FFA for a better outcome for Australians and the game in Australia," Palmer said.

"The FFA has lurched from one disaster to another and needs to be replaced," the statement quoted Palmer as saying. "They staged a hugely embarrassing World Cup bid which blew A$46 million of taxpayers' money for one vote and they are running an A-League competition which is bleeding money from club owners."

FFA chief Ben Buckley responded in a a statement describing Palmer's assertions as "an array of unsubstantiated claims and wild commentary."

"At this stage FFA does not intend to respond to this farcical outburst, which is clearly intended to deflect attention from the real issue -- that Gold Coast United FC Pty Ltd under Clive Palmer has shown that it will not comply with the rules and regulations of the competition in accordance with the agreement they signed," Buckley said.

Several rival A-League clubs spoke out Friday to dismiss Palmer's Football Australia and reaffirm their support for FFA.

The relationship between Palmer and the FFA has long been strained, and last month the Gold Coast owner was quoted in a newspaper describing the team as insignificant, the competition as a joke and rating rugby league as a better game.

He later said his comments on football were taken out of context, but didn't back away from his criticism of the A-League and its administration. He added to that Wednesday by claiming that "the sport should not be run by dictators like (Frank Lowy)" even as he called the FFA chairman an "institution" in Australian football.

Gold Coast put up 'Freedom of Speech' signage at its ground and on its playing strip, triggering the decision to expel the club from the league.

Lowy said the FFA had been "left with no alternative" than to cancel Gold Coast's license due to Palmer's "flagrant disregard" for A-League regulations.

"We can't let anybody thumb their noses at us saying 'We're going to do what we want to do but I want to stay,'" he said.

Palmer lost an injunction application in the Supreme Court on Friday to reverse the decision, meaning the FFA will administer Gold Coast for the remaining four matches of the A-League season.

Gold Coast players were set to sign new contracts with the FFA later Friday to ensure they can travel to New Zealand for Sunday's match with Wellington Phoenix.