The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Friday that Australia’s three representatives in the AFC Champions League have withdrawn from the continent’s flagship club competition, due to kick-off later in June.
“The AFC has taken note of Football Australia’s confirmation of the withdrawals of Sydney FC, Melbourne City FC and Brisbane Roar from the Group, Playoff and Preliminary stages of the 2021 AFC Champions League respectively,” the AFC said in a statement.
With the worsening COVID-19 situation in much of Asia a cause for concern for Australia’s club, there were also scheduling clashes.
All three have finished in the top six in the A-League season to book their place in the Finals Series. With these play-offs starting on June 11, 12 or 13 and ending on either June 26 or 27, it made competing in Asia extremely difficult.
Sydney FC was the only team automatically placed in the group stage and was due to travel to Uzbekistan later this month -the AFC has ruled that all group games take place in one centralised venue to cut down on travel -to play the first of their six games against South Korean powerhouse Jeonbuk Motors on June 25. They would have ended against Tampine Rovers of Singapore on July 10 with Gamba Osaka the other team in the group.
Melbourne City had been due to take on Cerezo Osaka in a play-off on June 20 with the winner heading into Group G along with Guangzhou FC of China, Hong Kong’s Kitchee and Port of Thailand.
On June 19, Brisbane was scheduled to take on Kaya FC of the Philippines in a preliminary play-off in Thailand for the right to face Shanghai Port four days later for a place in the group stage.
An announcement as to which teams will replace the Australian absentees is expected soon.
“The matter will now be referred to the relevant AFC Committees, with a decision to be communicated in due course,” the AFC added.