When Australian football moved Confederations from Oceania to Asia there was a long debate between those at the top of the FFA and those at the Asian Football Confederation as to which teams from Australia would earn a place in the Asian Champions League.
The AFC believed that it should be the team that finished top of the League, the FFA stated that they would be sending their Grand Final winner. After six months of going back and forth eventually Australia was granted two spots – at the expense of Vietnam- and both teams were accepted into the Asian Champions League.
Now with the dawning of the FFA Cup Adelaide United as inaugural Champions believe that they should be given a place in the competition and there will be many who will agree with them.
Currently Brisbane Roar who were last season’s premier’s plate and grand final winner will play, along with runners up and losing Grand Finalists Western Sydney Wanderers, as well as the Central Coast Mariners Mariners who finished third on the league ladder have a play off spot to qualify for the competition. Surely the FFA Cup winner should move ahead of them?
To be fair the Football Federation Australia announced earlier this month that next year’s FFA Cup winner is in line to win a berth at the 2016 Champions League, however Adelaide are believed to be keen to fast track the Cup winners into the tournament in 2015.
Adelaide Chairman Greg Griffin has been quoted as saying “We are the cup winner, I don’t know yet (if we’ll contest the decision), it’s disputable (the rules). Cast your mind back when it was Adelaide United versus Persipura in the ACL (Champions League).’’ Griffin was referring to 2012 when the Indonesian club was granted a play off spot in the Asian Champions League at the 11th hour.
Adelaide wrote to the Asian Football Confederation asking for clarification on the ruling of Champions League clubs participants before the FFA Cup final was played.
Despite Adelaide’s claims in a ten team league where the top six make the finals series and have a chance to be crowned Champions it is ridiculous that a third of the teams in the competition should be competing in the pinnacle tournament in the region. Also with Australian teams currently struggling financially within the A-League surely clubs need to get their house in order here before trying to compete in Asia, and have to cover the extra costs of competing in the ACL?
There are many who feel if the AFC wants the Asian Champions League to be taken seriously, there honestly should be no more than two teams from any country taking part in this still fledgling competition. The more you dilute the competition by bringing in non-champions the competition will take longer to take a hold in the psyche of the average Asian football fan.
There is a bigger issue at play here though, and one that could change the face of Australian football.
The AFC has specific rules for Australia’s Champions League allocation for 2015 in the “Manual for decision method AFC Champions League participation” document.
In phase five of the document it states that member association (Australia) is allocated three Champions League slots, which shall consist of the “winner of the national top division league, winner of the national knockout cup and the runner-up of the national top division league.”
Based on that Adelaide have a very strong case, and the teams representing Australia in the 2015 Champions League should be Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United.
The issue here for the FFA is that they have stipulated in the past that the grand final winner is the cup winner. If the AFC opt to recognise Adelaide United ahead of the Grand Final winner, suddenly there becomes little value in winning the Grand Final and the finals series has to be looked at as a different competition from the League season.
The AFC may well have met the FFA halfway almost ten years ago, but will they eventually get what they always wanted, the team that is the top of the league at the end of the regular season being the team that is crowned Champions?
Just another situation for the FFA to manoeuvre their way out of without harming the current competition in Australia. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.