The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Competitions Committee today decided to amend the schedule for the 2016 AFC Champions League involving fixtures between clubs from Saudi Arabia and IR Iran.
In order to give more time for the AFC administration to obtain independent evaluation on the safety and security situation between Saudi Arabia and IR Iran, the Competitions Committee decided to switch match days in each of the four groups.
The Committee agreed to set March 15, 2016 as the date by when the evaluation should be completed. If there has not been a return to normal relations by then, all matches between teams from Saudi Arabia and IR Iran will be played at neutral venues for the rest of the competition.
Meeting for a second day in Doha, Qatar the AFC Competitions Committee considered in depth the unique and complex situation in which the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and United Arab Emirates Football Association asked for the switch of any national and club games to ‘assure the safety and security of the teams and accompanying delegations’.
The IR Iran Football Federation (IRIFF) in turn said that its ‘expectation from the AFC was to disallow political interference in football’ and reiterated that IR Iran was one of the ‘safest countries in the region.’ The IRIFF also said it was committed to ‘ensuring the safety and security of all the national teams and clubs participating in various international competitions.’
The Committee decided that even though there is no change in the schedule for matches between clubs from the UAE and IR Iran, the IRIFF will be requested to provide a full security plan and guarantee to the UAE for matches played in IR Iran. AFC will monitor these matches extremely carefully and will appoint AFC security officers for them.
In accepting the proposal the Committee agreed to amend match days in the AFC Champions League schedule as follows:
Change match day 1 (Feb 23) for match day 6 (May 4) so Foolad Mobarakeh Sepahan (IR Iran) will play the winners of the play-off between teams from Saudi Arabia and Jordan away on match day 5 (April 20) and in IR Iran on match day 6.
Change match day 2 (March 1) with match day 5 so Zobahan (IR Iran) plays Al Nassr (Saudi Arabia) on match day 5 in IR Iran and in Saudi Arabia on match day 6.
Change match day 1 with match day 6 so that Tractorsazi Tabriz (IR Iran) will play Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia) in Saudi Arabia on match day 5 and in IR Iran on match day 6.
Change match day 2 with match day 5 so that the winner of the play-off between clubs from IR Iran/Qatar plays Al Ahli (Saudi Arabia) on match day 5 in IR Iran or Qatar and in Saudi Arabia on match day 6.
Setting a March 15 date also gives the Competitions Committee nearly one month before the final round draw for qualification for FIFA World Cup Russia 2018/AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 to evaluate the situation regarding national teams.