Football Australia is lobbying the AFC and federal government in a bid to land hosting rights for a FIFA World Cup qualification hub on home soil in June, as chief executive James Johnson looks to maximise national team exposure after 16 months in coronavirus-induced limbo.
Formerly the AFC’s director of International Relations and Development and widely respected across the region, Johnson is aiming to leverage that goodwill to enhance Australia’s chances of staging the remainder of the Group B Asian qualifiers, which are currently at the halfway point.
Australia have a 100 per cent record after four matches in a group also featuring Jordan, Kuwait, Taiwan and Nepal.
It’s understood Australia face competition from Jordan, Kuwait and Taiwan to host a hub, which would round out stage two of Asian qualifying ahead of September’s commencement of the final phase on the road to Qatar.
But FA will need the backing of the government for the plan to proceed, with current two-week quarantine periods too prohibitive to make the proposal feasible.
If discussions provide some elasticity regarding quarantine regulations and stipulations, then Johnson - the man who spearheaded Australia’s winning bid to co-host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup - might be able to persuade AFC that Australia, which has been so effective in combatting COVID-19, would be the ideal location to stage the remainder of the Group B program.
With March’s proposed visit of Kuwait off, and the March 30 trip to face Nepal in grave jeopardy, Johnson believes a June hub - which would also take in the remaining home games against Taiwan and Jordan - would be the logical solution.
With his influence at AFF HQ in Kuala Lumpur not to be under-estimated, it’s probable Australia - blessed with outstanding infrastructure - would likely eclipse Jordan, Kuwait and Taiwan in a four-horse race.
Talks are understood to be at a preliminary point between all parties, with a hub format the only realistic solution to the logistical issues posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Australia have scored 15 goals and conceded just one to sit two points clear of Jordan and Kuwait, who have both played a game more.
FA were contacted for comment.
Australia's remaining second round fixtures in 2021 are currently as follows:
• Australia vs Kuwait (location TBC): Thursday 25th March
• Nepal vs Australia (Dasharath Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal): Tuesday 30th March
• Australia vs Taiwan (location TBC): Monday 7th June
• Australia vs Jordan (location TBC): Tuesday 15th June