Sydney FC’s participation in the AFC Champions League is still up in the air according to CEO Danny Townsend.
The eastern zone of the continental competition resumes in Qatar on November 15 with the A-League powerhouse due to take on Shanghai SIPG four days later.
Sydney took one point from the opening two games in Group H earlier this year but it is off the pitch issues that are of greater concern.
The current quarantine rules in Australia would leave the team stuck inside a hotel for 14 days upon its return to the country and unable to train - far from ideal preparation for the new A-League season which is scheduled to start on December 27, nine days after the AFC Champions League final.
“Our intention was always to play in the Champions League,” Townsend told The World Game.
“The challenge has always been getting the required government exemptions so we can travel and we still don’t have those. If we don’t have the exemptions then we can’t go, it’s as simple as that.”
Time is running out. According to Townsend, the board which grants exemptions to quarantine rules will next meet on November 18, too late for Sydney who, with AFC regulations stating that teams must arrive four days ahead of their first game, have to be in Qatar on the 15th.
Sydney, along with Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory, is hopeful that the exemptions will be issued ahead of the meeting.
“We like to think we will get them,” said Townsend. “We have submitted the paperwork and are pushing hard but it is now out of our hands.”
There have been reports that any team that doesn't participate in the tournament will be hit hard by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), determined to complete the competition and meet broadcasting and sponsor obligations, with a significant fine and ban.
“We haven’t had that conversation with the AFC yet,” said Townsend. “We will advise them accordingly when we know the situation. I am not sure what else we can do as we are doing all we can.”
The Sydney boss paid tribute to the work done by the AFC and Qatar in ensuring the safety of players and officials in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Our original concern was the health and safety of our players but I think the AFC has done a great job and it seems that everything in Qatar is safe. The issue for us is getting back.”
Australia is not alone as The World Game understands that the four Chinese representatives have also yet to receive an exemption from their government and there have been concerns expressed elsewhere in East Asia.