x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UFL issues warning to clubs over AFC criteria

Clubs have until June to meet the requirements of the continent's confederation or risk losing their league membership.

The chief executive of the UAE Football League has warned clubs they must meet certain strict criteria laid out by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) or risk losing their league membership.

A delegation of league officials visited Emirates and Ajman, the second-tier clubs, this week to inspect their facilities and make sure they comply with AFC requirements.

Both clubs were told they have to meet the criteria set by the UFL General Assembly in June.

Any club failing to meet AFC standards could jeopardise the number of spots available for Pro League clubs in the Asian Champions League (ACL).

"Not every club failed to meet the AFC's criteria, but if one club doesn't meet their requirement, then the entire club system has failed," Carlo Nohra, the CEO, said yesterday.

"It may sound harsh but that's what professionalism is about. Professionalism has a concept in football and it's something unknown in this country. The AFC will raise the bar every year and it is for us to try and meet this criterion as best as we could.

"For instance, Kalba didn't have a separate entrance to the media and that was enough for the AFC's special mission team to fail us in the club requirement.

"We are faced with some pressing realities and we feel it is better off serving our own objectives rather than serving the objectives of the AFC so in a way it would be better to have two clubs playing in the ACL."

The inspection included an appraisal of the stadium facilities for players, referees and fans as well as the medical centre, doping control room, media and television areas, and security.

"I think clubs need to be more disciplined, and the need to be disciplined requires everybody to raise the level of their administrative performances," Nohra said.

"There needs to be a more realistic approach to what's being done. The clubs in this part of the world were established as community centres. So it's going to take a lot of time and patience to create a culture.

"The AFC are aware of the realities but they insist it as an absolute requirement in a professional league."

Japan's J-League is the only professional league to meet the AFC's criteria. The UAE are seventh in the compliance list of 11 nations as they failed to meet four of the 11 requirements - attendance, game operating, media and club facilities.

"The Pro League is only three years old and it will definitely take time to reach the same level, but I would like to think [in] lesser time than the J-League, which is 18 years old but it took around 15 years for it to be known as the best and most renowned in the continent," Nohra said.

"This is our responsibility and they will have to meet all the requirements if they want to play in the Pro League. We will raise the bar for all clubs for the next season in order to meet the requirements of the AFC. It is a chain process and I am sure it will work, even if it takes some time."