KUALA LUMPUR: Pandemic pressure on fixtures has forced the Asian Football Confederation to cut knockout ties in AFC Champions League and AFC Cup from its current home and away format to single leg ties.

An AFC statement explained: “Taking into consideration the existing uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing travel restrictions imposed across the Continent, the AFC Executive Committee agreed that it was essential to minimise the travel frequency of the participating clubs, while underlining its continued commitment towards ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all players, teams, officials and key stakeholders.”

The exco also approved the proposal for the Champions League quarter and semi finals to be played in one centralised venue for the East and West Region respectively and agreed to open the bidding process for a single-leg Final, which has been rescheduled to be held on November 23 – rather than the scheduled two-legged final on November 21 and 27 .

Venue will be one of the member associations from the West Region.

A statement added: “The AFC Cup will continue with the remaining matches and groups as much as possible, while at the same time, the matches across all stages which cannot be played due to matters arising from the COVID-19 pandemic will be cancelled and that such cancellations will be recognised as an event of force majeure.”

The 2022 Champions League and AFC Cup seasons will continue to be played in centralised venues, with the Knockout Stages also following the single-leg format of the current edition of both club competitions.

National teams – statement:

The AFC Executive Committee has today approved the AFC Women’s Football Committee’s recommendation to cancel the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Indonesia 2022 and the AFC U20 Women’s Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022.

The AFC Executive Committee acknowledged the importance to prioritise the health and safety of all stakeholders in particular, the Continent’s youth players against the backdrop of the ongoing uncertainty and challenges caused by the current pandemic. It was also decided that the same hosts will stage the next editions of both competitions in 2024.

Additionally, in preparation for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022, the AFC Executive Committee also decided to provide greater flexibility in finalising the dates for the Qualifiers, which is currently scheduled for September 13 to 25, 2021, taking into consideration the challenges that may arise from the availability of hosts, team travel arrangements, quarantine and medical measures imposed by several nations.

Therefore, the AFC will now work with the relevant host Member Associations to finalise the competition dates to complete the Qualifiers.

The AFC Executive Committee also approved the AFC Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee’s recommendation to cancel the AFC Women’s Futsal Championship Kuwait 2020 and the AFC U20 Futsal Asian Cup 2021.

Meanwhile, the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Kuwait 2022 Qualifiers, which was originally scheduled for October 13 to 24, 2021 has also been rescheduled to a window during April 1 to 15, 2022, with the Final competition moved from February 16 to 27 to September 25 to October 20.

Additionally, the AFC Executive Committee also noted the preference of host Member Associations to gain valuable international exposure, technical preparation and hosting experience by participating in the qualifying competitions despite receiving an automatic spot in the Finals.

In light of this, and to maintain fairness of the qualifying competitions, the AFC Executive Committee agreed to allow host Member Associations to participate in the Qualifiers, which will be considered as friendly matches and have no bearing when calculating the group rankings and best positioned teams among all the groups in the respective Qualifiers.