Shanghai SIPG FC's Lyu Wenjun (R, front) competes during the AFC Champions League Qualifying football match between China's Shanghai SIPG FC and Thailand's Buriram United in Shanghai, east China, Jan. 28, 2020. (Photos: Xinhua)
The AFC Champions League group stage matches involving Chinese clubs of the first three match days have been postponed due to concerns over the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Tuesday.
In a statement following an emergency meeting held at the AFC headquarters here, the Asian football governing body said matches involving clubs from China in February and March will be rescheduled in April and May. The East Zone Round of 16 matches are proposed for June 16 and 17 with the return leg on June 23 or 24.
The meeting, attended by representatives of football associations, leagues and clubs, was called in response to the impact on the AFC Champions League East of the coronavirus outbreak, which had been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), AFC said.
This year's AFC Champions League will kick off next week.
AFC announced last week the original match schedule was altered by the AFC so that the Chinese clubs could play away in the first three match days.
The six matches involved Chinese clubs in the first three match days were to be played in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia, respectively. Some governments, including Australia, have introduced restrictions which make it impossible for Chinese clubs to travel to play the rescheduled matches.
So far, a match on day 2 on Feb 18 between Chiangrai United's and Beijing Guoan in Thailand may go ahead as plan on but only because Beijing Guoan is currently in camp in South Korea and may not need quarantine measures, the AFC said.
Chiangrai United have stressed that they will continue to work closely with the Thai government and medical officials to monitor the on-going and fast-moving situation, it added.
The representatives at the emergency meeting agreed that a deadline to assess the latest situation will be set 21 days before each match and if it is decided the game cannot go-ahead as proposed, the host club will have to nominate a neutral venue at least 14 days before the match day.
AFC General Secretary said the decisions had been made in the interest of all stakeholders and the football body would seek ways to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on its schedule.
"We also accept that this coronavirus is a much bigger issue than just football and we wish all those who have been affected a speedy return to health," he said.