Asia divided on how to handle Australia’s Champions League withdrawal
AFC announced last week that Sydney FC would not make the group stage as Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City pulled out of play-offs against Kaya Iloilo of the Philippines and Cerezo Osaka of Japan.
While it is understood that the COVID-19 situation and the restrictions put in place by the Australian government have made everything difficult, it is also believed that countries like South Korea, China and Japan are in positions similar and that Australia could have done more.
Chinese teams have also spoken of pulling out with the national team occupied and the national league underway, but have been warned by the Chinese FA that it will be bad for the country’s football scene and the future representation of the League of Nations. champions if they withdrew.
Instead, there will be plenty of young players and reserve players in the teams that take part later this month.
Japan and Korea have also cleared some hurdles in terms of programming their national leagues to accommodate continental commitments.
What happens next? The AFC said the case would be referred to the relevant committee which would decide on a form of sanction. This may be a financial penalty, a suspension from competition for one or two seasons, or a combination of the two.
One of the reasons why Chinese teams agreed to play was the threat of a ban from the competition and what that would do to the allocation of berths in the competition.
The number of places a league obtains is determined by the AFC Association Ranking System. Points are earned by clubs that win and draw games.
Australia have, due to years of poor performance in continental competition, slipped to fifth in the Eastern Zone, resulting in the reduction of automatic group spots from two in 2020 to one this year.
Fewer teams means fewer points opportunities and no team at all this year means no points collected.
This will give teams from leagues ranked just below at the start of 2021 – like the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia – a chance to pass and eat into Australia’s dwindling allocation.
If there was an additional two-year ban it would mean three blank editions for Australia and a bleak future.
By the time the A-League sides returned in 2024, the ranking points would likely be so low that not only would there be no automatic group places, but there would even be the embarrassing prospect of relegation to the Cup. AFC, the second level in Asia. competition.
In April, Myanmar clubs Shan United FC and Hantharwady United withdrew from AFC competitions due to political unrest in the country as well as COVID-19.
Sanctions here are unlikely as the AFC competitions committee said it “noted and recognized the challenges as well as the current complexities caused by the state of emergency in Myanmar and decided the situation constituted a force majeure “.
It remains to be seen whether the same position is taken with regard to Australia.
Other teams withdrew without consequences. Malaysia’s JDT did so last year, as travel restrictions put in place by its government made it extremely difficult to exit the country. However, the Malaysian national team were not playing abroad at the same time, as is currently the case with Australia.
While AFC officials do not want to reduce Australia to a peripheral presence in the Champions League, there is also an opinion that the absence may make hearts fonder at a competition that has rarely been embraced and a appropriate punishment would discourage others.
There is also the realpolitik of the other countries which profit from the absence of Australia.
In 2020, Australia were above Thailand in the standings for falling behind, and with Thailand suddenly finding themselves with four teams in the group stage to none for Australia, the gap will only widen. .
It’s a bit of a mess but, whatever happens, Australia’s presence in the AFC Champions League is going to be affected by this withdrawal decision for a while.