Final week, the AFC introduced that Sydney FC won’t take part within the group stage whereas Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Metropolis had pulled out of play-offs towards Kaya Iloilo of the Philippines and Japan’s Cerezo Osaka.
Whereas there may be an understanding that the COVID-19 state of affairs and the restrictions put in place by the Australian authorities made the whole lot tough, it is usually felt that nations corresponding to South Korea, China and Japan are in related positions and that Australia may have performed extra.
Chinese language groups talked about withdrawing too, with the nationwide group busy and the home league ongoing, however have been warned by the Chinese language FA that it could be dangerous for the nation’s soccer scene and future Champions League illustration in the event that they pulled out.
As an alternative, there will probably be loads of younger and reserve gamers within the squads that take part later this month.
Japan and Korea have additionally jumped by means of a couple of hoops by way of scheduling their home leagues to accommodate continental commitments.
What occurs subsequent? The AFC has stated that the matter will probably be handed on to the related committee which is able to resolve on a type of punishment. It could possibly be a monetary penalty, a suspension from the competitors for the subsequent one or two seasons, or a mixture of each.
One cause why Chinese language groups agreed to play was the specter of a ban from the competitors and what it could do to the allocation of berths within the competitors.
What number of locations a league will get is set by the AFC’s Affiliation Rating system. Factors are earned by golf equipment profitable and drawing video games.
Australia has, due to years of poor performances within the continental competitors, slipped down into fifth within the east zone, ensuing within the discount of automated group locations from two in 2020 to 1 this yr.
Fewer groups means fewer alternatives for factors and no groups in any respect this yr means no factors collected.
This can give groups from leagues ranked slightly below at first of 2021 – such because the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia – an opportunity to overhaul and eat into Australia’s shrinking allocation.
If there was an additional two-year ban handed out, that will imply three clean editions for Australia and a bleak future.
By the point A-League groups returned in 2024, the rating factors would seemingly be so low that, not solely would there be no automated group locations in any respect, there may be even the embarrassing prospect of relegation to the AFC Cup, Asia’s second-tier competitors.
In April, Myanmar golf equipment Shan United FC and Hantharwady United withdrew from AFC competitions on account of political unrest within the nation in addition to COVID-19.
Punishments listed below are unlikely because the AFC Competitions Committee stated it “famous and acknowledged the challenges in addition to the current complexities brought on by the state of emergency in Myanmar and determined that the state of affairs constituted an occasion of drive majeure.”
It stays to be seen if the identical stance is taken with regard to Australia.
Different groups have withdrawn with out penalties. Malaysia’s JDT did so final yr as journey restrictions put in place by its authorities made it extraordinarily tough to go away the nation. Nonetheless, the Malaysian nationwide group weren’t taking part in abroad on the similar time, as is at present the case with Australia.
Whereas AFC officers don’t need to cut back Australia to a peripheral presence within the Champions League, there may be additionally a view that absence could make the center develop fonder of a contest that has not often been embraced and correct punishment would discourage others.
There may be additionally the realpolitik of different nations benefiting from Australia’s absence.
In 2020, Australia have been above Thailand within the rankings solely to fall behind, and with Thailand all of the sudden discovering itself with 4 groups within the group stage to Australia’s none, the hole is just going to get greater.
It’s all a little bit of a large number however, no matter occurs, Australia’s presence within the AFC Champions League goes to be affected by this determination to withdraw for fairly a while.