Thursday, May 22, 2008
Reconstructing the ACL
Firstly and most obviously, the winners-only system for the first-round groups has been sensibly abandoned (as it was for the first round of World Cup qualifying in Asia, incidentally). The profusion of dead rubbers that habitually results from such a format is ruinous for gate takings, and by allowing the top two to progress from the opening groups, the AFC will surely be helping the clubs to offset the expenses of an ACL campaign (an important factor for Australian clubs).
Just as a side note, a traditional top-two progression from the opening group would have allowed Melbourne Victory - believe it or not - to advance to the Round of 16 in the current competition, had it been played under the revised ACL format!
Now to the matter of the revised allocations. Although, at first glance, the eastern side of the draw seems absurdly weighted in favour of "the big three" (Japan, China and South Korea), it makes sense in a way. Group F of the current competition has been a complete joke, with both Thai entrants Krung Thai Bank and the hapless Vietnamese club Nam Dinh conceding 27 goals over the course of six games. In Adelaide's group, Binh Duong have been similarly uncompetitive.
The Vietnamese clubs clearly don't belong at this level of competition, although admittedly the new allocations seem a bit rough on the Thais, given Chonburi's commendable performances. But Thailand has fallen foul of the AFC's tough new "professionalism" requirements, with the result that they have to battle it out for a repechage place in the group stage. Uzbekistan and Qatar have suffered the same fate in the western half, the former having particular grounds for disappointment following the exploits of Kuruvchi in this year's Group A.
Australia, too, was given a less-than-favourable report card (what on earth does the word "threadbare" mean in that context, incidentally?). Some of the demands therein will be impossible to achieve by October this year (the promotion/relegation stipulation, for instance, which is a very long way off). Some compromise of sorts will no doubt be reached; there is no way that the AFC will bar Australian clubs from participation in the new competition.
So the groups will at least be competitive, even if the competition loses some diversity as a result. And although the Australian teams will no longer have a "bunny" in the group to swipe relatively easy points from, the move to two group qualifiers should offset this up to a point.
One innovation right out of left field is the guaranteed presence of an Indian club in the western half of the competition. TV revenue coming into play? Perhaps, but is interest in local football on the subcontinent (let alone the standard) really all that strong? Cricket's IPL has been a roaring money-spinner, but I'm not sure if the ACL would prove a similar cash cow in India.
On the subject of Champions Leagues: felicitations to Manchester United on winning the European version for the third time. Not one of their best performances this season, but over the course of the competition they've shown themselves worthy of the honour, by and large.
I've been tracking them closely from the beginning and have had them as a bit of a 'roughie' and their results have been impressive, with Uzbek internationals Timur Kapadze and Server Djeparov esp. catching the eye in most of the highlights I've seen...no mean feet to top that group, unlike Adelaide's, which was weak.
Also, the Syrians are doing well on the field and getting excellent crowds. Again, Al Karama could really embarrass the AFC.
India? yes, my first thought was 'the population', so that'll be interesting to watch....but Indian in the West? seems to me they are the only non-Arabic speaking participant in the west.
I was really impressed with the Uzbeks at the Asian Cup, too (especially Denisov and Kapadze). I've got a feeling they're a bit of a pariah in Asia though...certainly the new format seems very unfair on them.
...India? yes, my first thought was 'the population', so that'll be interesting to watch....but Indian in the West? seems to me they are the only non-Arabic speaking participant in the west....
Well, there's Iran as well (they speak Farsi not Arabic), but they're on the same page as the others culturally. Not sure how that one's going to work out, it seems pretty odd.
India normally play in the West for the AFC Cup, so shouldn't make a difference for them.
For my boys in Thailand, we have been lucky to have two entrants recently, so now possibly one slot, and i suppose that is acceptable, if we beat the best of ASEAN.
Just rather unhappy in general about the amount of teams from certain nations, such as 4 Saudi and Japanese teams.
AFC could really have done with a pre-qualifiying tournement invloving all AFC members, but i guess this new format will push certain nations to improve their domestic systems
Or might the AFC budge on allowing the A-League champs of 2008/09 entry into the 2009 ACL?
Or might the AFC budge on allowing the A-League champs of 2008/09 entry into the 2009 ACL?...
Don't think either of those is going to happen, Dean. It's fair enough in a way, for the HAL to get three teams into the ACL when there are only eight teams in the comp is a bit much. And the "last year's champions" problem is going to continue, as long as ours remains a summer competition...
Good luck to them of course.