In the Hyundai A-League, Australia’s national football competition, neither of last year’s grand finalists have reached this year’s finals series. The Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United finished fifth and sixth respectively — putting them out of contention for the finals, which only features the top four teams.
And yet, Melbourne and Adelaide will both be competing in Asia’s premier international club competition, the Asian Champions League, when it kicks off in March.
And they’re going to the ACL as — supposedly — Australia’s best two clubs.
The problem lies in the scheduling. The A-League season wraps up in February, two months after the AFC (Asian Football Confederation, who organise the Champions League) announces its draw. As a result, the AFC have opted to use last season’s champions for this year’s Champions League.
But consider this:
Melbourne qualified for the Champions League on December 17, 2006 – close to 15 months before it would play its first game in the competition. Adelaide also qualified over a year earlier, in February 2007.
Strike anyone else as a bit of a problem?
Last year, Adelaide had the advantage of being able to play in the Champions League soon after the A-League wrapped up, by virtue of having finished first in the 2005-06 A-League season.
But this year, neither Adelaide nor Melbourne are playing anywhere near their best. Both teams have lost much of the good form which helped them to qualify for the Champions League in the first place.
The AFC needs to have a long, hard look at the qualification process for the Asian Champions League.
In December, it announced that Indonesia would have no representatives at the ACL this year, because the Indonesian competition doesn’t finish until January — a month after the ACL draw.
Only six months ago, Indonesia was one of the four countries hosting the Asian Cup. Now it can’t get a team into Asia’s biggest international club competition.
If the AFC wants the Champions League to be truly representative of the best clubs in Asia, it needs to change how the qualification process works.