DOHA: Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia have become the latest high profile victims of the combination of Covid-19 and a squashed competitive calendar.

The club were unable to name the required 13 players for their Asian Champions League (West) Group B match against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, of the United Arab Emirates.

That left them at the mercy of Article 4.3 of the AFC’s special rules and were deemed to have withdrawn from the competition.

An AFC statement explained:

All matches played by Al Hilal, who named only 11 players, are considered null and void according to Article 6 of the AFC Champions League regulations and therefore Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai have progressed to the Round of 16 from Group B.

Competition regulations allowed for 35 players to be registered by each club, but Al Hilal registered 30 of which only 27 travelled to Doha in the beginning of the Competition.

In order to support the technical preparations of the Club affected by COVID-19, the AFC subsequently allowed the addition of two goalkeepers to replace those who had tested positive for COVID-19 and worked with the Qatar Football Association to facilitate the timely arrival in Doha of the replacement goalkeepers as well as two other players who had not travelled and two other officials.

Throughout the competition, the AFC has maintained an open line of communication with the club and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) and has dealt with all their concerns and enquiries in a timely manner.

Despite the efforts of the AFC, Al Hilal and SAFF still requested a postponement of the match against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai referencing Article 4.3 of the Special Rules Applicable to AFC Competitions During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Article states: “If a Participating Team/Participating Club has less than thirteen (13) players (including one (1) goalkeeper) available for a Match for any reason (whether or not relating to COVID-19), the relevant Participating Team/Participating Club shall not be able to participate in the Match. Such Participating Team/Participating Club shall be held responsible for the Match not taking place and shall be considered to have withdrawn from the relevant Competition. The relevant Participating Team/Participating Club and its affiliated Member Association shall be subject to the provisions of the relevant competition regulations, as applicable.

“In exceptional circumstances and provided that any rescheduling will not affect the match schedule determined by the AFC General Secretariat, the AFC Competitions Committee (or any sub-committee carrying out duties on its behalf) may grant an exception to the foregoing and allow the relevant Match to be rescheduled.”

However, the AFC Champions League (West) COVID-19 Sub Committee decided that a postponement would have a huge negative impact on the current match schedule of the AFC Champions League (West) and so no exception was granted.

The AFC Medical Team and the Qatar Health Authorities continue to be committed to the safety and wellbeing of all the participating clubs and all appropriate medical care and support is being given to those who test positive.