Shaikh Salman promises AFC will deliver as global focus turns to Asia

By Paul Nicholson in Paris

June 4 – This Thursday in Ulaanbaatar the first ball of the 2022 World Cup will be kicked when Mongolia and Brunei Darussalam being the first round of AFC qualifying. In December in three years time the last ball will be kicked in Doha Qatar. The focus is on Asia, said AFC  president Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa.

Opening the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Extraordinary Congress in Paris, Shaikh Salman said that focus of the world is now on Asia, not just with the 2022 World Cup but the U17 World Cup in India and three AFC nations bidding for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

“Hosting the World Cup is a great responsibility,” he said, “Asia will not let you down, it never does.”

Building on his theme, he said: “Asia always delivers, not only on the field buy off the field. We have built a future around a unity of purpose. We have brought record commercial revenues and will build them further. We will build new and more exciting competitions and engage with billions of fans…

“We will wort to close the gap between our leading nations and our aspiring nations, raising the standard to compete on the global stage…That means investment and we will invest.”

Talking of a new vision and mission for Asia at the start of his new four-year presidential term, he said: “These are exciting times in Asia. It is Asia’s time. We will deliver not only for this continent but also across the world.”

The principle order of business for the congress was to agree the revised budgets for 2019 and 2020. The AFC is projecting revenue of $186 million in 2019 and $180 million in 2020 – agency commissions (under the old deal with Lagardere that is coming to an end) were predicted at an eye watering $75.2 million in 2019 and $74.5 million in 2020. The AFC is saying it will spend $412 million over the period, about 50% of it on “top class competitions”.

Also budgeted for a spending increase is new investment in AFC technical staff, VAR competent officials and coaching and technical conferences. Central to this will be the development of AFC House in Kuala Lumpur as a training and learning hub.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, speaking to AFC members similarly emphasised the shift towards Asia. “The focus of world football will be forwarding to Asia and how you are living football every day. (The AFC) is a solid confederation working hard with great commitment,” he said.

“We (at FIFA) will be working the next four years together with you to do fantastic things for Asian football and also world football.”

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