December 22 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is to send a high-level delegation led by AFC senior vice president Praful Patel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in early January 2018.
The mission is to explain to the national associations the reasons behind recent AFC executive committee decisions, as well as to speak to local stakeholders about the issues and learn more of the practical challenges ahead.
The AFC has said that club matches in its regional championships must be played on a home and away basis, including match-ups between Qatari clubs and Saudi and UAE clubs. This is despite a political and economic blockade of Qatar by its neighbours.
The AFC will also examine security issues in the countries to ensure that matches can be played safely. An independent security company has been instructed to undertake a risk assessment. If their decision is that a game cannot be safely played in a country then a neutral venue may be considered for that game.
The independent assessment keeps the decision on playing the game out of the political sphere and makes any potential appeal of an AFC decision to the Court for Arbitration of Sport more difficult to win.
The AFC Executive Committee decided, when meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in late November, that the delegation should visit football officials in the Member Associations and Government representatives to explain decisions taken by the AFC committees and the principles of the AFC competition rules and regulations.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a Bahraini, recused himself from adjudicating on issues in the AFC’s West Zone.
Patel’s delegation members will include Mariano Araneta Jr, FIFA Council and AFC executive committee member, as well as Member of the AFC competitions committee. They will be supported by AFC director of competitions Shin Man Gil.
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