I-League CEO Sunando Dhar explains how AFC settled on the controversial ACL allocations

The CEO of the I-League elucidates how India, Singapore, Vietnam and others missed out on the crucial play-off spot in the Asian Champions League

The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) decision to not assign an Asian Champions League spot to India, Vietnam, Singapore, Jordan and a curtailment of berths for Australia has not gone down well with the respective member associations, with Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, the FIFA vice-president, leading the protest by being absent from the recent AFC Asian awards function.

Sunando Dhar, who was in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Pro League Committee meeting, explained what transpired in the discussions held: “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.”

“In the Pro-League Committee meeting, the main part of the discussion was dedicated to the allocation of the Asian Champions League (ACL) spots. The AFC suggested that any association who has garnered 600 points or more from the 1000 will be eligible for the ACL spots. Now only 8 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 mentioned that the line of argument adopted by nations who failed to meet the 600 points norm and 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," he explained.

"By allotting the ACL spots to just 8 countries, there is a suggestion that only 8 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.

“In two years time, the number of countries who are now eligible by meeting the criterion has gone up from 2 to 8. 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.”

Sunando Dhar (far left)

When the AFC Competitions Committee met the following day, they decided otherwise which did not go down well with many countries.

“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," he added.

"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.”

It is reliably learnt that with the exception of five members, most of the Executive Committee voted in favour of the decision taken by the Competitions Committee.

The good news for India, Vietnam, Jordan, Singapore and Australia is that the decision taken by the AFC Executive Committee would be valid only for a year.

“This was initially supposed to be for two years but it is applicable only for a year," he 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."

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