September 6 – Australia has withdrawn from the race to host the 2023 Asian Cup, leaving South Korea and Qatar as the frontrunners to stage the next edition of the continental finals.
Football Australia officially confirmed that they will not be submitting a bid for the tournament having expressed an interest in July, but following closer scrutiny of the bidding requirements, let the August deadline to submit a formal bid lapse.
Chief executive James Johnson had previously indicated that a bid would be contingent on government support and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) being open to moving the tournament to a time slot in 2024, most likely at the start of the year.
Australia is already co-hosting the women’s World Cup in the summer of 2023, so to take on the organisation of the expanded Asian Cup would likely be biting off more than the country and its football administrators could chew at the point in time.
The Australians however confirmed that they will launch a bid for the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Uzbekistan have also expressed interest in hosting those finals.
Australia’s decision leaves South Korea and Qatar in pole positions to win the bid race for the 2023 competition. Indonesia, who co-hosted the Asian Cup in 2007, is also in the bidding race but there is a feeling that it might be too early for the country to host the next edition in its expanded format as it is still developing its football infrastructure.
South Korea’s bid gained steam with the appointment of former players Hwang Sun-hong and Lee Young-Pyo as honorary ambassadors.
Hwang manages the men’s Olympic and U-23 teams, and Lee is a vice-president of the Korea Football Association (KFA). The pair were a part of the South Korean national team which reached the last four of the World Cup on home soil in 2002.
“The host country of the Asian Cup will be decided in October,” said KFA president Chung Mong-Gyu. ”KFA will work with the Government and local Governments to actively engage in attracting activities. I will also meet with the AFC Executive Committee members to convince them of our will and vision.”
The government has also thrown its weight behind the KFA’s bid to stage a first major finals since 2002. “This Asian Cup will be a competition that opens a new paradigm in football,” said Korean sports minister Park Bo-gyun. “If the Asian Cup is held in Korea, it will be a festival that combines soccer and K-culture. “It is sufficient grounds to host the Asian Cup.
“President Chung’s leadership is showing bright prospects for hosting the tournament.”
For South Korea to gain favour to win the bid they will likely need to open up their industrial conglomerates to support the competition and the AFC. While their bid has government support, South Korean industry has yet to show major sponsorship support for the AFC’s competition, instead spending their marketing money outside the region with FIFA.
The Qataris will host the World Cup in November and December and in contrast to South Korea come with well established sponsor support within the region. Awarding the 2023 Asian Cup to Qatar would almost certainly mean a shifting of the dates to January 2024. In the short time frame left to organise the competition, following China’s late hosting withdrawal, Qatar would have the added comfort factor of having the infrastructure and knowledge in place to pull off the hosting.
The AFC was left scrambling to find a new host for the 24-team competition after China withdrew because of its zero-Covid policy.
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