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Asean Club Championship postponed until 2021

Fans of Thai club Muangthong United wearing masks as a protective measure against coronavirus during the Thai league match against Chonburi at SCG Stadium. (Photo by Yuttachai Kongprasert/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The inaugural Asean Football Federation Club Championship (ACC) has been rescheduled to 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The AFF confirmed the postponement last week.

The tournament was to feature 12 clubs from Southeast Asian countries, competing for a lucrative prize purse – the winner was to earn more than $500,000 (€450,000).

In a press release, the AFF said: “With the ACC having been slotted into 10 match days over 5 months in the regional schedule, it’s now clear that with the prevailing conditions and the pending rescheduling of many AFF national leagues and AFC competitions, yet to be decided, that there will not be sufficient time to complete the inaugural championship this year. All members can now plan for the launch in 2021.”

The AFF is also moving its U18 Women’s Championship, U16 Boys’ Championship and U19 Boys’ Championship, originally scheduled in Indonesia in June, July and August respectively. The new dates have not yet been confirmed.

This year’s Asean Football Championship national team tournament is planned to go ahead as scheduled in November this year.

The ACC was to kick off in May or June. One of the challenges for the tournament organisers had been fitting it into a cramped calendar, alongside Asian Football Confederation competitions as well as domestic competitions and national team World Cup qualifiers. This challenge increased as the coronavirus shortened the 2020 football calendar.

Speaking to SportBusiness prior to the postponement of the tournament about the prospect of fitting it into 2020, Nonong Araneta, CEO of the Philippines football federation, one of the participating federations, said: “It’s going to be very cramped. We need also need to start thinking about the AFF Suzuki Cup [the biennial regional tournament for national teams] in November and December. It is hard to even think about starting something new for some time.”

Postponing for a year will give the ACC organisers more opportunity to secure sponsors – this year’s market has become very difficult, local football officials say.

“Everyone is worried. This is not a good time for sponsors and we all have to understand this,” Somyot Poompanmoung, president of the Football Association of Thailand, told SportBusiness. “We are worried about our own existing sponsorships so it is very difficult to find new ones. We have no matches so we have no content for them and we don’t know when we will be able to play. In Thailand, we are talking to our sponsors all the time and we are just trying to make sure that things keep going. It is a really difficult time at the moment, something we have not experienced before.”

For now, the ACC is taking a back seat along with most other fixtures in the sports calendar, as stakeholders focus on the the welfare of their people.

“We have to wait and see what happens,” said Philippines boss Araneta. “We are ready to support the tournament but at the moment, our priority is the health and welfare of our players and staff.”

With additional reporting by John Duerden