Major AFC Champions League relaunch in 2009

The first Asian Football Confederation Professional Leagues Committee meeting took place in Tokyo today, marking the beginning of AFC's commitment to re-launch professional leagues in selected Asian markets by 2009. Chaired by Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi, the meeting defined four main objectives, being to improve and establish commercially feasible professional leagues in Asia; raise the competitiveness of Asian football; improve the AFC club competitions including the AFC Champions League; and enhance the commercial value of the Asian football market.

Member associations were represented from Australia, China, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and UAE. Also, in attendance was Maurice Watkins, representing the FA English Premier League, who made a comprehensive presentation concerning the legal and commercial parameters of what is often referred to as the most successful football league in the world.

A key topic of discussion was also the improvement of the AFC Champions League and other AFC cub competitions, with a view to increase the future commercial value, financial benefit to participating clubs and competitiveness. The major re-launch will take place in 2009, with small amendments taking place for Season 2007 to accommodate the two Australian clubs who will take part next year.

Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, AFC President, Mohamed bin Hammam, remarked, “Today's meeting marked a very important day in the development of Asian club football, both at national and continental level. There was very lively discussion and I am confident that the next two years will see an intensive and productive planning period to re-launch professional club football in many important markets.”

"In fact, I would like to refer to professional football as ‘commercial football’. We need to look at the best examples in the world, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany ... it is not a matter of copying but taking the best and deciding what is most relevant to the Asian market. Saying that, we cannot ignore the amateur football which comprises 99% of football in Asia. Grassroots development is looked after as part of the Vision Asia program,” he said as quoted by AFCMedia.

The second AFC Professional Leagues Ad-hoc Committee meeting is scheduled for July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.