NZF targetted in new ineligibility protest: OFC

The Oceania Football Confederation are investigating a new ineligibility protest against New Zealand Football which could have far-reaching consequences for the national body.

OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas has received a complaint from one of the confederations' member associations about the eligibility of players representing New Zealand teams at OFC tournaments over the past 12 months.

The Herald have uncovered 16 players who have represented the All Whites, New Zealand under-17s, New Zealand under-20s and New Zealand under-23s within the past year who also appear to fall short of Article 7 of Fifa's eligibility requirements.

New Zealand's under-23 football team were forced to forfeit their Olympic qualifying tournament in Papua New Guinea this month after All Whites defender Deklan Wynne fell short of these requirements.

New Zealand Football are appealing OFC's decision but if NZF lose the case, there could be further sanctions for systemically breaking the rules.

“OFC is working with its disciplinary committee and seeking advice from Fifa for the appropriate process to follow - and to rule on who has jurisdiction - into the possible ineligible players that represented NZ recently at the OFC under 17 World Cup qualifying tournament in American Samoa,” said Nicholas.

Three New Zealand players that took part in the OFC Under 17 Championship were born in the UK and one in Papua New Guinea. Without Kiwi ancestry, these players would be ineligible under Fifa's rules.

The fresh complaint appears to hinge on the Wynne appeal, and it's likely no action will be taken on it until that process is complete.

But if Wynne, along with other players from the All Whites, under-23s, under-20s and under-17s, are found to have broken Fifa's rules, the game's governing body could crack down hard on NZF.

Fifa have precedent for ruling with an iron fist on ineligibility laws. In 1988 Mexico were found guilty of using overage players in an under-20 tournament, and the federation was subsequently banned from all international competition, senior and underage, for two years.

The New Zealand under-17's are due to play the World Cup in Chile in October.

NZF said they are not in a position to comment on individual or team cases while their on-going legal process is on-going.