Football Association confirm they will follow request from AFC for no neutral venues in matches and will now work with the clubs involved on ensuring the safety of officials and players.
UAE teams to play games in Qatar and host Qatari sides in Asian Champions League
The Football Association has confirmed that UAE clubs will play games in Qatar as well as host matches involving Qatari sides in this year’s Asian Champions League despite having severed all ties with Doha.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced in November that there would be no more instances of games being played at neutral venues involving clubs from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, and that all matches in the 2018 Asian Champions League (ACL) would have to be played in the country of the designated home side.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and Egypt, cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar on June 5 accusing it of financing terrorism.
The UAE and Saudi authorities co-operated in an independent safety and security assessment committee brought in by the AFC to assess the situation. The AFC confirmed on Thursday, after receiving a report from the committee, it upheld its earlier view that there would be no matches played at neutral venues for the 2018 competition.
In a statement on Sunday, the FA confirmed they would respect the AFC’s decision and would work with Asian football’s ruling body on arrangements for matches that will see at least two Arabian Gulf League sides take on Qatar clubs home and away.
"We are keen to cooperate with the AFC and so we announce our official participation our clubs in the AFC,” the statement translated from Arabic said. “We will cooperate with them and provide them with all the necessary equipment. We will also hold meetings with the AFC to ensure the safety of our players.”
The statement noted that the “neutral” committee had been in favour of the FA’s request for the matches to be played at alternative venues, but that the AFC’s executive committee had “strangely” overruled it.
"The UAE urged the AFC to play on neutral grounds because of the difficulty of playing in neighbouring countries," it said.
"This led the AFC to form a neutral committee headed by Praful Patel, the vice president of the AFC, to monitor the situation. The committee received great support and co-operation from the UAE. After careful observation, the committee approved the UAE’s request that our teams must play on neutral grounds. However, the executive committee, strangely announced that the games will be played in a ‘home and away’ system."
The Saudi Arabian Football Association also confirmed Sunday they will allow their sides to play in Qatar as well as host Qatari teams.
The UAE have three sides confirmed to be in the ACL group stages, which start in February, with two teams already in groups that include Qatari sides.
Al Wahda are in Group B alongside Al Duhail while Al Wasl are alongside Al Sadd in Group C. Al Jazira are in Group A and could face Al Gharafa if the Doha club win this week's play-off with Uzbekitan’s Pakhtakor, while Al Ain would be in Group D with Al Rayyan if they triumph in their play-off on Tuesday with Malkiya of Bahrain.
The first confirmed fixture for a UAE club against a Qatari team is February 13 when Al Wasl are slated to host Al Sadd at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai.