The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Competitions Committee met in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates, and recommended that the AFC adopt a new format for the AFC Cup from next season, as well as proposing new policies for neutral venues for all AFC competitions. It was reported by AFC.com today.
Under the chairmanship of Lin Xiaohua from China PR, the following recommendations were made to the AFC Executive Committee, which meets in Abu Dhabi on December 1, 2016:
AFC Cup format and final host arrangements
The Competitions Committee recommended a new format for the AFC Cup which will be played in the AFC’s five zones. The West Zone, which has dominated the competition in recent years, will remain mainly unchanged, although there will be a West Zone final which will provide the region’s representative for the AFC Cup final.
There will also be an inter-zone play-off between the champions of ASEAN, Central, South and East Zone. The winners of the inter-zone play-off will then qualify to the final of the AFC Cup.
The West and East champions will then play in a final which is recommended to be played on a rotational basis at venues in the East and West from 2018.
The new format is to help more teams from lower-ranked Member Associations to compete and raise playing standards in line with the AFC’s Vision and Mission objectives of Member Association Development and improving the standard of Asian teams.
Hosts of AFC U-23 Championship 2018
Earlier this year countries from the East and ASEAN Zones were invited to submit applications to host the AFC U-23 Championship. The AFC Competitions Committee has recommended China PR as the hosts of the AFC U-23 Championship in 2018. The competition will be played in four cities and four stadiums. So far the cities of Kunshan, Changshu, Jiangyin and Changzhou have been identified as potential host venues.
Participation of Kuwait in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers Final Round
Kuwait participated in the Preliminary Qualifier, advancing into the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers Final Round after finishing in the third position in Group G. The AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers Final Round will be played in a home-and-away format from March 28, 2017 to March 27, 2018.
With FIFA having suspended Kuwait Football Association (KFA) on October 16,2015 from participating in any football activities, the Kuwait national team is not allowed to take part in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers Final Round.
With the draw for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers Final Round scheduled to take place on January 18, 2017, the Competitions Committee recommended that it was important – as was the case with the AFC Futsal Championship and AFC U-16 Championship in 2016 – to establish the position of Kuwait at least a month before the draw.
It was, therefore, agreed that if Kuwait were still suspended on December 18, 2016, they will not be eligible to compete in the Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers Final Round.
Neutral match venues
Due to the challenges in some AFC Member Associations, several ‘home’ matches have had to be played in neutral venues. This has presented challenges with the late notification or last-minute change of venues, failure to provide the required security guarantees or the inability to obtain relevant visa clearances.
Therefore, to assist the smooth organisation of competitions, the committee recommended that the Member Association involved must nominate a neutral venue at least three months before the match and that all relevant documents should be submitted at least two months before the scheduled game.
Failure to meet these deadlines would result in the match being automatically awarded to be played in the home venue of the opposing team, but all technical matters, such as away goals, would still be applied in line with the original fixture. The AFC would decide on the financial implications on a match-by-match basis.
Foreign player policy
The committee discussed the foreign player quota known as the ‘three-plus-one’ rule – three non-Asian and one Asian player being available to play for clubs - which has been in use in the AFC club competitions since it was introduced in 2009 - with the objective of the development of Asian players, and also to encourage Asian teams to recruit elite Asian players.
The committee supported the continuation of the ‘three-plus-one’ rule, allowing for three foreign players and one Asian player in AFC club competition matches. There will be further meetings and workshops with relevant Member Associations, clubs and leagues to gather further views.
The discussions will also consider the number of foreign players who can be registered – even though only ‘three plus one’ can be on the team sheet. This will also help Asian teams when playing on the world stage. Strengthening the nationalisation criteria for players will also be looked at. The AFC administration will report back to the committee on their findings at the next committee meeting.
Member Association rankings for AFC club competitions
It was recommended by the Competitions Committee that the AFC will use the club performances for the rankings of the AFC club competitions in the future. At present, the club performances form 70 per cent of the rankings with 30 per cent of the ranking coming from the national team results.
With a transition period until 2021 when the rankings will rely 100 per cent on club performances, it is recommended that in 2019 and 2020 the ratio for the rankings will become 10 per cent on national team results and 90 per cent on the club results.
The transition period will allow the lower-ranked Member Associations to gain points for qualification for the AFC Cup. The rankings will in future be known as the AFC Club Competition Ranking.