By Paul Nicholson and Andrew Warshaw
June 4 – The Asian Football Confederation says it is “committed” to completing this year’s regional Champions League after the latest round of talks with member federations.
Both the Champions League, the flagship Asian competition, and the second-tier AFC Cup have been suspended until at least the end of June because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In both competitions the opening group stages have still to be completed with discussions on how to resume the central theme of two online meetings.
The AFC says it will now propose a format and dates for the matches for a “final review”, after which they must be approved by the AFC Competitions Committee.
Countries represented in the Champions League are said to have “committed to agreeing a format and timetable for the 99 remaining games as soon as possible”.
It is finding the format that works for all clubs that will be tricky with the AFC emphasising that complying with national travel restrictions is still the biggest issue to getting going again, and ensuring that all health guidelines are complied with.
Similarly concerns exist around ensuring the sporting integrity of competitions as well as commitments to commercial partners.
Getting through the home and away games of the group stages is the biggest challenge. With domestic leagues in various stages of restarting, the impact of dragging teams away for Champions League competition makes league restarts more complicated.
Once group stages complete then the Champions League could drop its home and away knockout format to a single match knockout format. At this stage the option of centralising the matches in a single location can be considered. That location is most likely to be in West Zone of the confederation.
A Champions League winner will need to be crowned before the Club World Cup in Qatar in December since the winners represent Asia there.
“While it was important to consider the commercial implications, the sporting integrity of the competition as well as the safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders were also of the highest priority,” said an AFC statement.
The AFC also said it “has been in regular contact with all competing MAs not only on the club competitions but also the Preliminary Joint Asian Qualifiers Round 2 and the centralised AFC U-16 and U-19 Championships and the AFC Futsal Championships.”
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