RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has been named as the host for three AFC Champions League 2021 group stages, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Thursday.
The West Region matches will see the Kingdom host groups A and D in Riyadh and C in Jeddah, between April 14 and 30.
The games in Group B will be staged in Sharjah, in the UAE, while India, whose representative FC Goa will mark the nation’s debut in Asia’s premier club competition, will host Group E.
In the East Region, the AFC has confirmed the postponement of the group stage matches scheduled to be played between April 21 and May 7, to June and July, taking into consideration the existing travel restrictions and quarantine challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Meanwhile, Thailand will provide the location for the matches in the East Region groups F, G, and J, with the venues for groups H and I as well as the exact dates for all groups to be decided at a later date. The preliminary and playoff matches of the AFC Champions League (East) have also been postponed and will be played in centralized venues of their respective group stage games.
As part of the bidding process, member associations were required to meet a rigid set of criteria to ensure adherence to the highest health and safety protocols and standards.
These included minimum travel and quarantine restrictions for away clubs, the convenience of flight connections and the medical situation in the host country, sufficient venues to organize the matches and, most importantly, mandatory COVID-19 testing for all players and officials, the costs of which would be borne by the AFC.
“On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to thank all our member associations for their interest in hosting our club competitions and commitment toward ensuring we continue to place the safety and wellbeing of our players, teams, and officials at the forefront of all our priorities,” said AFC Secretary- General Dato’ Windsor John.
“The AFC is most grateful for the support of the AFC competitions committee and our commercial partners and we will continue to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders as we strive to ensure a safe and successful 2021 club football season,” he added.