KUALA LUMPUR:  The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed that the tender for sale of the commercial rights for the two cycles between 2021 and 2028 will be published next February 1.

The issue of AFC rights has long been a subject of controversy and secrecy stretching back to the presidential reign of the now-banned Mohamed bin Hammam.

A statement from the AFC said:

After a re-scheduling, approved by the AFC executive committee in Bangkok in November, it has been decided that the eagerly-awaited rights tender will be issued to both agencies and broadcasters. The results of the tender . . . will close in late March.

AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has ensured that the process will be conducted with transparency and fairness.

It is difficult not to see the shadow of the next elections as the statement continued:

In the next cycle, the AFC aims to further increase its tailor-made support for Member Associations, to continue to invest in competitions and to ensure that the AFC has the resources available to support those ambitions.

Shaikh Salman added: ‘We start from a strong foundation. By working together, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, the Member Associations have given the AFC the opportunity to deliver an ambitious Vision and Mission which provides focused and tailor-made services to maximise the potential of the MAs – and the results have been impressive.

‘The financial return demonstrates that this commitment is matched by action – the total investment in Member Association services will have risen from $17.366m in the cycle from 2013 to 2016 to more than $39.091m by 2018 – and as the AFC competitions grow, there will be increased financial support to continue to reward success.

Earlier this month the AFC announced an increase in prize money in the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. The AFC Champions League is now claimed to be one of the most lucrative continental club competitions in the world.