The Asian Football Confederation has removed hosting rights to the forthcoming final of its second-tier club competition, the AFC Cup, from North Korea amid concerns over the impact of existing sanctions on the country on aspects such as broadcast of the match.
April 25 Sports Club, North Korea’s army club, is due to face Lebanon’s Al Ahed in the 2019 final, which had been scheduled for November 2 in Pyongyang. However, the AFC has today (Tuesday) chosen to move the game to the neutral host site of Shanghai, China.
The AFC said in a statement: “Due to the existing sanctions in place affecting DPR Korea, the AFC has been advised by its commercial rights partners of the challenges in enabling among other matters, the production and broadcast delivery of the final match, which is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the AFC’s club calendar.
“In keeping with its objectives, the AFC, after careful consideration of the challenges affecting the commercial, broadcasting, media, accessibility and logistical arrangements, is compelled to assign the final match to be played in a neutral venue.”
The AFC said Shanghai was chosen due to its ease of access and after the Chinese Football Association confirmed its willingness to stage the game. The host stadium for the final will be decided in due course.
The AFC Cup news comes after last week’s 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier between North Korea and South Korea was played in a near-empty stadium in Pyongyang amid a media blackout. The game, which ended as a goalless draw, was not broadcast live outside North Korea, with the only live information available being online commentary on the Fifa and AFC websites.
South Korea’s national team and staff were refused direct entry to the country and had to travel via Beijing for the game at the 50,000 capacity Kim Il-Sung stadium, which was played on October 15.