Draw opens up as Fiji, Tahiti and Palau forced to withdraw from tournament

Draw opens up as Fiji, Tahiti and Palau forced to withdraw from tournament

FIBA Oceania, the regional office of the international Basketball Federation FIBA, announces with great reluctance and sadness the withdrawal of teams from Tahiti, Fiji and Palau from the forthcoming FIBA Oceania Tournament to be played in Saipan, Northern Marianas June 20 – 28.

Speaking from his office in Coffs Harbour, Australia, FIBA Oceania Secretary General Steve Smith said today:

“From the messages reaching us from our federations in Palau, Fiji and Tahiti we know that the difficult financial conditions being blamed on the World Financial Crisis is having an impact on the sporting life of Pacific Island athletes. Not only are our Basketball Federations facing great difficulties in gaining corporate, community and government support for their fundraising efforts to get to Saipan, but the players and officials, facing an uncertain financial future are reluctant to spend the comparatively large sum of money needed for an international airfare on something which is not a necessity of life.”

Smith commented further:

“Many people in developed countries do not fully understand the difficulties faced by team sports in the Oceania region in trying to conduct regular competitions. With many Pacific Island nations having an average income per capita of less than $5,000 USD, to ask an athlete or their parents to spend two or three thousand dollars on an arifare to go to an international competition is a huge ask. And during these uncertain economic times the desire to cut down on spending is even more understandable.”

Financial conditions alone are not the only factor causing the late withdrawal of teams. It is believed that the increasing isolation of the nation of Fiji caused by political developments there, and the impact on the health of the economy is also affecting the ability of the government to support the international travel efforts of the national teams.

Likewise continued political uncertainty and instability in Tahiti has adversely affected the ability of the Basketball Federation there to campaign for international travel assistance.

FIBA Oceania were unsuccessful at this late stage in finding replacements for the withdrawn teams.

The FIBA Oceania tournament in Saipan will go ahead with 10 teams with each competition playing a full round of games and then a further top of the table elimination series leading to the medal rounds.

Secretary General Smith said: “I feel great sympathy for the administrators in these countries who have had to make an obviously difficult call. I have even greater sympathy for the players, coaches and referees who will be denied that chance to compete against Australia and New Zealand in Saipan. This is an opportunity which only comes around once every four years and for some players, it may be their chance of a lifetime.”

The teams which have withdrawn from the competition will face a heavy penalty for their actions. They will lose the team participation bond they posted for this event. They will not be permitted to participate in any other FIBA Oceania event in 2009-05-14. They will be reqired to lodge double the team participation bond of other teams before they can enter any future FIBA Oceania event.

FIBA Oceania will need to examine its competition structure to see if it is viable under existing economic conditions in the Pacific. With the Oceania Youth Tournament allocated to New Caledonia in October 2010 FIBA Oceania certainly need to avoid a similar situation for that event.

Australia will now compete against New Zealand, New Caledonia, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

For more information about FIBA Oceania visit: www.fibaoceania.com.

For more information about the FIBA Oceania Tournament visit: http://www.sportingpulse.com/assoc_page.cgi?assoc=3621&pID=1