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Jan, 19, 2009

Jets slump unlikely to change ACL spots

Nearly 12 months after lifting the A-League crown, Newcastle is preparing to represent Australia in the Asian Champions League (ACL) as the national competition's wooden spooners.

The Jets have endured a horror 2008-09 season, winning just four matches and have missed the finals for the first time in the four-year history of the A-League.

Club chairman Con Constantine is also under a cloud with the Football Federation Australia (FFA) investigating allegations he verbally abused protesting fans during the Jets' 2-1 home win over Perth on the weekend.

Due to the timing of the end of the A-League's season and the draw for the ACL, the struggling Jets join last season's minor premiers Central Coast (currently fourth) in representing Australia against the cream of Asian clubs in the lucrative 2009 ACL - not this season's top teams.

But an FFA spokesperson said changing the qualification procedure to streamline the most recent champions and premiers into future ACL tournaments was unlikely.

"The cut-off date for the ACL came before our season was over so in practical terms the agreement was with the A-League clubs that the previous season's champions and premiers would be the ones who would be put forward for the Asian Champions League," she said.

"They (the Asian Football Confederation) have a tournament to plan and need to get all of that into operation as well.

"You can't just have a tournament and say you've got to go somewhere in Australia at a certain time, there has to be certainty about it."

After Adelaide United's brilliant run to the final of the 2008 ACL, the FFA spokesperson had no fears the Jets wouldn't be competitive in the ACL despite their woes this season.

"In an ideal world we would hope that both our representatives in the Asian Champions League were performing at a high level and I guess it's a measure of the value of the Hyundai A-League to see how both those teams go," she said.

"I think Adelaide have set a very high benchmark but a benchmark to which every A-League club is aspiring and if Adelaide can do it I should imagine every club can think they can do it as well.

"Central Coast and Newcastle have nothing but the best wishes of the whole football fraternity with them in the 2009 Champions League competition."

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