The Garden City side, finalists last year, had initially been denied a licence since they did not meet certain criteria set by the Pro League Committee (PLC) and based upon Asian Football Confederation guidelines
Al Ain win licensing appeal, set to compete in 2018 Asian Champions League
Al Ain are set to compete in next year’s Asian Champions League after they had their 2017/18 UAE club licensing granted on appeal.
The Garden City side, finalists last year, had initially been denied a licence since they did not meet certain criteria set by the Pro League Committee (PLC) and based upon Asian Football Confederation guidelines.
Only five of last season's 14 Arabian Gulf League (AGL) clubs were awarded their licence in October, with UAE champions Al Jazira and President’s Cup holders Al Wahda given theirs provisionally.
However, Al Ain’s appeal to the PLC’s First Instance Body proved successful late on Monday, paving the way for their participation in next year’s Champions League.
Still the only UAE club to have won the title, Al Ain looked to miss out originally having finished fourth in last season’s AGL. The Champions League spots are usually reserved for the top two in the table and the President’s Cup winners, with third place in the league entering a play-off to make the continental competition.
Yet Shabab Al Ahli Dubai’s application for a licence was dismissed since the club, merged in May, did not fulfill the basic criteria of being in existence for at least two years. That paved the way for Al Ain to compete in the Champions League, but only if their licence was granted.
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Al Ain are the country’s most successful side in the tournament after winning the trophy in 2003. They have returned to the final twice since, in 2005 and then again last year. In the final last November, they were beaten by Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, losing 3-2 on aggregate to the South Koreans.
Zoran Mamic’s men are now expected to attempt to go one better next year, although they will first have to negotiate a play-off in January to qualify for the group stages the following month. Currently, Al Ain sit second in the 2017/18 AGL, level on points with leaders Al Wasl.
Wasl are one of three UAE clubs already qualified for the Champions League, alongside Jazira and Wahda. Meanwhile, First Division side Baniyas also had their 2017/18 licence granted on appeal, although Hatta, Kalba and Dibba were rejected. Al Nasr, Al Dhafra, Emirates club and Sharjah were granted their licences earlier this month.
The Asian Football Federation implemented the club licensing system at the beginning of the 2012/13 season as a mandatory requirement to participate in the Champions League. The UAE's clubs' licensing regulations are based on the governing body’s guidelines, with the regulations constituting the base working document for clubs. Reasons for the clubs failing to obtain their licences have not been made public.