Omicron surge and Qatar 2022 preparations force AFC to re-programme Champions League

January 13 – The surge of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and the “unique circumstances” around the Qatar 2022 World Cup dates have forced the Asian Football Confederation to push back its Champions League (ACL) 2022 schedule with the final now moving from October 2022 into February 2023.

Originally set to start centralised group stages in March, they will now be moved to April for both the East and West Zones.

While the East region will play the following knock-out rounds in centralised venues (from last 16 to semi-finals), in August 2022, the West region will not start their knockout rounds until February 2023.

The three knockout rounds to qualify the two finalists will now be a condensed into a seven-day period in both east and West regions.

The ACL final will be played over two legs on February 19 and 26, 2023. The first leg will be hosted in the West Region by the finalist club while the second leg will be hosted in the East by the other finalist club.

The AFC explained the push back of the group stages saying: “Travel procedures around Asia have become more challenging with new travel restrictions and protocols being introduced by several countries in efforts to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.”

It is hoped that by April the omicron variant will have slowed and that travel restrictions will be relaxed enough to allow the groups to be played without club withdrawals.

Explaining the long gap to the final, the AFC said: “The Asian teams who are likely to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ are expected to put in place extensive preparation plans for the competition and a need was felt to facilitate such tune-ups in the face of the uncertain situation and unforeseen risks.”

The bidding for the host venues will be opened soon.
ACL West Region schedule:

  • Group Stage: April 7-27, 2022 (double round-robin in one centralised venue).
  • Round of 16: February 3 and 4, 2023 (single knockout match in one centralised venue).
  • Quarter Finals: February 7, 2023 (single knockout match in one centralised venue).
  • Semi Final: February 10, 2023 (single knockout match in one centralised venue).

ACL East Region scehdule:

  • Group Stage: April 15-May 1, 2022 (double round-robin in one centralised venue).
  • Round of 16: August 18 and 19, 2022 (single knockout match in one centralised venue).
  • Quarter Finals: August 22, 2022 (single knockout match in one centralised venue).
  • Semi Final: August 25, 2022 (single knockout match in one centralised venue).

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