|By RAHUL BALI
The voting process behind the Asian Football Confederation's decision to reallocate the places for the 2013 AFC Champions League has been revealed.
The AFC announced there woudl be four spots for clubs from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Japan, Korea Republic and China as part of the changes announced on November 29, with Australia's quota going from two automatic and one play-off spots to one of each. It meant beaten A-League grand finalists Perth Glory lost their place and Brisbane Roar have to qualify through the play-off stage.
Other leagues, such India, Vietnam, Singapore and Jordan missed out altogether.
I-League chief executive Sunando Dhar, who was in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Pro League Committee meeting, has now revealed what transpired in the discussions before the changes were announced.
"We fought in the Pro-League Committee meeting and did manage to get a play-off spot for India. But it was shot down by the Competitions and the Executive Committees respectively," he told Goal.com.
"In the Pro-League Committee meeting, the main part of the discussion was dedicated to the allocation of the Asian Champions League spots. The AFC suggested that any association who has garnered 600 [criteria] points or more from the 1000 will be eligible for the ACL spots. Now only eight countries met the criterion and obviously those nations were in favour of the criterion as they wanted more clubs from their nation to play in the ACL."
Dhar said the federations which failed to meet the 600 points cut-off point managed to convince the Pro-League Committee to give them at least a play-off spot.
"We mentioned that the ACL was initiated for the betterment and development of the Asian region as a whole. By allotting the ACL spots to just eight countries, there is a suggestion that only eight nations are making progress and not the rest. We brought to their attention that two years back only Japan and Qatar fulfilled the criterion and exemptions were given back then," he said.
"In two years time, the number of countries who are now eligible by meeting the criterion has gone up from two to eight. Why can't exemptions be given now and who knows that within two years time, it may go up to 14? We also suggested that should ACL slots not be awarded to developing football nations that the momentum to develop would slow down. Later it was agreed in the Pro-League Committee that the play-off spots were to be awarded to nations not meeting the 600 points criterion."
But the decision to award play-off places to the likes of India was overturned when the AFC Competitions Committee met the following day.
"The Competitions Committee overturned what was decided in the Pro-League Committee meeting and they suggested that whoever just missed out on the 600 points would get a play-off spot. The final decision was to be taken in the Executive Committee meeting as to whether to go ahead with the suggestions of the Pro League Committee or the Competitions Committee. I was told that most of the members voted for the Competitions Committee's decision and hence India lost out on the play-off in the ACL," Dhar said.
It is understood all but five members of the Executive Committee voted in favour of the decision taken by the Competitions Committee.
The re-allocation will be valid for a year: "This was initially supposed to be for two years but it is applicable only for a year," Dhar said.
"From next year, the criterion and the system will change. The national licensing criterion will be the most important aspect where the associations or leagues will hand out the licenses while the AFC will focus more the infrastructure and the rest."
- with Paddy Higgs