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FIFPRO says Asian Champions League system unsustainable

Zhejiang FC’s Franko Andrijasevic is tackled by Melbourne City’s Marin Jakolis in the AFC Champions League in December.

Zhejiang FC’s Franko Andrijasevic is tackled by Melbourne City’s Marin Jakolis in the AFC Champions League in December. Photo: Getty

Football’s international players’ union FIFPRO says the drawbacks of the “unsustainable” Asian Champions League outweigh the benefits for players and clubs – and an upcoming revamp is unlikely to change that.

In a report released on Monday, FIFPRO called for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to forge “a genuine partnership with players, clubs and leagues to ensure that the competition delivers for all parties”.

“The results indicate that the merits do not outweigh the drawbacks for most players and clubs, making it an unsustainable system,” FIFPRO Asia/Oceania chair Takuya Yamazaki said in the report.

Western Sydney won the ACL in 2013, and Adelaide made the final in 2008.

But recently Australian clubs have rarely reached the knockout stage, and have often operated at a loss amid the heavy associated costs of the group stage.

For home games, clubs are required to provide a “clean stadium” free from any branding besides the AFC’s approved partners.

That includes signage, but also more bizarre demands, such as removing labels from drink bottles or covering up logos on backpacks.

Sydney FC labelled the restrictions “ridiculous”, and Melbourne City estimated costs at $US150,000 ($229,000) for the group stage.

Travel subsidies and prize money also weren’t enough for clubs to avoid taking a loss on away trips.

Last campaign, clubs received a subsidy of about $61,000 for the preliminary and playoff stages, $92,000 for the group stage through to the semi-finals, and $183,000 for the final.

An unnamed Australian club provided actual costs for an away trip to Japan.

Economy-class flights for 22 players and 12 staff cost about $69,000 and accommodation was $76,000.

It means only the travel subsidy for the final would cover costs.

“The ACL represents the pinnacle of club competition in our region and the players believe it should also be the pinnacle of their club careers whilst playing in Asia,” PFA chief executive Beau Busch said.

“However, the report, and the players’ lived experience, shows that the ACL is falling short and the burden being placed on players and clubs outweighs the benefits.

“From an A-League perspective the report illustrates our members’ commitment to playing a constructive role in the development of Asian football.

“Our hope is that the report can be a catalyst for an effective working relationship between Asia’s players and the AFC.”

The competition is due to undergo a major overhaul for the 2024-25 season, with the latter stages of the tournament due to be played in a centralised hub, initially Saudi Arabia.

There will be three tiers, with the ACL Elite sitting above the ACL2 and the AFC Challenge League.

The A-League Men premiers (top of the table) will be Australia’s 2024-25 ACL Elite representatives.

If Wellington finishes top, the second-placed team (currently Central Coast) would qualify.

This year’s Australia Cup winners, Sydney FC, will be next year’s ACL2 representatives.

If Macarthur FC or Central Coast win this year’s AFC Cup, they will get a bonus slot into the 2024-25 ACL Elite.

-AAP

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