MELBOURNE: The Asian Football Confederation extraordinary congress has approved amendments to the AFC Statutes as proposed by the AFC Executive Committee on the morning of the opening match of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.

The majority of the amendments related to the division of the South and Central zone into two separate zones, a division approved by member associations in Sao Paulo last June.

AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa thanked the delegates for their sustained support in his opening speech.

He said: ”Over the last 18 months we have taken a number of important measures and decisions which impact our game both on and off the field of play.

“The setting up of the AFC governance reform task force, the adoption of the AFC Code of Ethics and AFC Code of Conduct and the formation of the AFC electoral committee are some of the concrete steps taken to improve governance of the confederation. We are also collaborating with Interpol and FIFA to protect the integrity of the Asian game.

“We have taken steps to strengthen our statutes and as a part of that process you unanimously decided to separate South-Central into two zones when we last met in Sao Paulo. I am confident that this is a positive step for the development of the game.

“The proposed amendments to the AFC Statutes are critical in taking our confederation to the next level, and I have no doubt that you will once again be unanimous in their approval.”

The Central zone will group together six central Asian countries with a rich footballing tradition and considerable playing success, including regional powerhouses Iran and Uzbekistan, who are both taking part in the current edition of the AFC Asian Cup.

The South zone will group together the seven rapidly developing footballing countries of the sub-continent, and is home to some of the most exciting developments in Asian football, notably the recent establishment of professional leagues and major tournaments which are set to take place across the region, such as the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.

There is also a corresponding amendment to the composition of the AFC Executive Committee, resulting in an increase in the number of AFC female Executive Committee Members from four to five, and the conversion of the AFC female vice-presidency into the role of AFC vice-president for the new fifth zone.

As a result, and as of the next AFC elections, a fifth of the AFC Executive Committee will be occupied by female members, representing a new benchmark for football and illustrating the AFC’s continued commitment to improving its governance.

Under its new composition, the AFC exco Committee will consist of up to 25 members, comprising the following positions:

AFC President (who shall assume the position of FIFA Vice President ex officio);

Five (5) AFC Vice Presidents;

Three (3) FIFA Executive Committee Members;

Five (5) AFC Female Executive Committee Members; and

Eleven (11) AFC Executive Committee Members

The members of the Executive Committee, excluding the AFC President whose seat is not subject to any zonal restrictions, shall be elected on a zonal basis as follows:

West Asia:  6 seats

South Asia:  4 seats

Central Asia:  3 seats

ASEAN:  6 seats

East Asia:  5 seats

The AFC Extraordinary Congress was chaired by the AFC President and was attended by representatives from 46 AFC Member Associations.