By TERRY MADDAFORD
Oceania Football Confederation president Basil Scarsella has quit, despite having almost three years remaining of his four-year term.
The island nations passed a vote of no-confidence in Scarsella 6-5 at a special congress in Auckland on Saturday. While he could have fought the decision, Scarsella honoured his pledge to step down if he felt he did not have majority support.
In a similar vote of no-confidence (7-4), the confederation's representative on the Fifa executive, Ahongalu Fusimalohi, also felt the wrath of the smaller nations. But, unlike Scarsella, he intends fighting any move to unseat him after producing an opinion from Fifa's legal committee.
New Zealand and Australia's bid to delay the changes until the planned OFC congress next May fell on deaf ears, thus handing the interim presidency to Samoa's Tautulu Roebuck.
The meeting, a drawn-out affair with Papua New Guinea president Madiu Andrew and Fijian Football Association president Mohammed Sahu Khan as the main spokesmen, included unwarranted accusations of racism against New Zealand Soccer chief executive Bill MacGowan.
MacGowan had labelled a disgrace suggestions from Vanuatu's Johnny Tinsley Lulu that Australia and New Zealand should kneel down and beg if they wanted to take the OFC helm.
New Zealand Soccer OFC executive committee member Mark Burgess, while unhappy at the tone of the meeting at times, said New Zealand and Australia would "work as positively as we can" with the new regime. Soccer Australia have a new board in place and we felt it was prudent to sit back and give them time to look at the situation."
Burgess had no doubt the Australians, under new chairman and successful businessman Frank Lowy, could give positive input.
"You have to be nervous about what will happen," said Burgess. "There has to be stability. That is, rightly or wrongly, how it is around the rest of the world.
"We have spent too much time on issues like this rather than focusing on the business of football. I can't see a change like this being applauded at Fifa headquarters."
Burgess also had concerns about the way the confederation was being run.
"The OFC is going to run out of money very quickly if they don't watch it," said Burgess. "There are real issues over the allowances and expenses being paid. These, and other things, are going to have to be addressed."
Burgess said talks would begin today between New Zealand Soccer and its Australian counterparts.
"We have to be as supportive as we can. We have to help develop a strategy which is best for Oceania. There were a lot of matters not covered by the executive committee at their meeting which followed the congress."
It is understood former OFC president Charlie Dempsey spoke at the meeting.
He apparently told the nations it was their lack of support for the European and African confederations - who supported Cameroon's Issa Hayatou at the last vote for the Fifa presidency - that cost Oceania direct World Cup entry rather than any problems within Soccer Australia or New Zealand's performance at the Confederations Cup.
By TERRY MADDAFORD