AFC reveal list of countries eligible for new look Champions League

Japan, Korea Republic, Australia, China, Indonesia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Iran and India have been confirmed as participants, after a thorough assessment of their eligibility, in the 2009 AFC Champions League to be relaunched on completely professional lines.

Captain Kawabuchi opened the meeting by saying: "The recommendations of this committee are based on inspections and long, fruitful discussions and our goal is to create an attractive competition which will take Asian football to new heights."

AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam said: "I am very proud of the achievements of this committee and they are laying down the blueprint for the professionalisation of Asian football."

"Asian football needs a big reformation process to make it professional and successful, and I know radical changes might not please everybody. But we must have the courage of conviction."

Only Japan met all the criteria and bagged a straight 'A' in all the fields. Ten Member Associations were rated as 'B' which means the committee is confident of them meeting the criteria by 1 October 2008. Six Member Associations received a 'C' which makes them doubtful of meeting the deadline, while four Member Associations were rated 'D'.

However, if the Member Associations short-listed above do not fulfil their commitment, which is to meet all criteria (except for the commercial entity of the clubs) by 1 October 2008, they cannot participate in the new AFC Champions League.

Following this, the final decision about the Member Associations will be taken by the AFC Pro-League Ad-Hoc Committee in its meeting on 25 November 2008.

The deadline for Member Associations to prove that their clubs’ legal status has been changed to one of 'commercial entity' is 15 December 2008 otherwise the concerned Member Association and its clubs will not be eligible for the new competition.

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The new competition format will allow the champions and runners-up of the AFC Cup 2008 to participate in the AFC Champions League via a play-off, providing more opportunity than ever before for many countries and clubs to become the club champions of Asia.

The current competition format will be applied only to the AFC Champions League in 2009 and 2010, and following these two competitions, there will be opportunities to participate for other Member Associations that have fulfilled the newly laid down criteria.