AFC cuts allocation for Thai clubs (July 18, 2006)



TOR CHITTINAND

Thai football suffered a blow yesterday when the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced it was reducing the allocation of Thai clubs in the Asian Champions League from two to one.


The AFC said the move was designed to allow two teams from Australia's A League to play in the tournament. Australia joined the AFC last January.


Vietnam will also have its allocation reduced to one.


"This decision was made based on the technical performance and match results of the Thai and Vietnamese clubs in recent seasons of the AFC Champions League," an AFC statement said yesterday.


The AFC Executive Committee said Thailand and Vietnam would keep one representative each in the competition with their second places demoted to the AFC Cup.


Thailand league winners Bangkok University will play in the Champions League while runners up Osotspa will compete in the AFC Cup.


Thailand's two representatives in the Champions League this season _ Tobacco Monopoly and Provincial Electrical Authority _ were disqualified for failing to comply with player registration deadlines.


Senior Thai football officials appeared to accept the ruling yesterday, admitting Thai performances in the Asian Champions league had not been very good.


"We have to accept the decision made by the AFC," said a senior official of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT). "For the past three years our results in the AFC Champions League have been very poor," said the official who declined to be named.


"Since BEC Tero Sasana reached the final in 2003 no team has got past the first round." he said.


He thought it was fair to have one Thai team in the tournament and one in the AFC Cup.


"The AFC have analysed the past matches closely and we have to accept their ruling," he said.


Former Thailand and Osotspa head coach, Chatchai Phaholpat also agreed with the ruling.


"It is the right decision," he said. "We have to accept that the Thai leagues are not strong compared to leagues in China, South Korea, Japan or the Middle East. We are not fully professional and many of our players are still amateurs."


Chatchai said the Thai clubs had not fared well in recent years.


"Right now, the teams from Thailand are underdogs. It's not like before when the Thai Farmers Bank or BEC Tero were strong teams."


He said the first priority of the FAT must be to build up a strong league.


None of Vietnam's teams have progressed past the group phase and their two entries this season lost all eight matches.


The two Australian clubs likely to play in the Champions League are Sydney FC, winners of the inaugural A-League championship in March, and Adelaide United who were premiership winners after finishing top of the regular season standings.