Football: AFC President calls for patience as COVID-19 takes economic toll

Michael Church, Reuters

Posted at Dec 09 2020 09:29 PM

HONG KONG - Asian Football Confederation president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has called for patience to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as the region's governing body renegotiates its existing and future commercial contracts.

In his keynote address during the organisation's congress, which was held online, Shaikh Salman made the request to his confederation's members and said the body will be in a stronger position next year.

"As now we have come to the end of 2020, there are difficult decisions still to be made," said the Bahraini, who has been AFC president since 2013.

"There is still so much financial instability due to COVID-19 and we are working hard to ensure that the AFC finances are secure to fulfil our vision for the game in Asia...

"I hope you will understand it will take some time for us to recover and until such times we will have to manage our finances and budget to protect the AFC, with the help of the finance committee and the executive committee.

"Once that’s done, we will be in a stronger position to assist and support all of our member associations."

Since the pandemic took hold in February, the AFC have been forced to cancel or postpone a number of tournaments, with only the flagship Asian Champions League – currently being played in Qatar as a centralised event – likely to be concluded this year.

Second tier club competition the AFC Cup was called off with several youth and futsal events pushed into 2021 while the region’s qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup finals have also been delayed.

As a result, the AFC revealed it is renegotiating with its existing commercial partner, SportFive, as well as with Football Marketing Asia, who will take over from the incumbents at the start of 2021.

The agreement with FMA, which was signed in 2018 when the company was known as DDMC-Fortis, is reportedly worth four times more than the AFC's current commercial contract.

In response to a series of questions from the Korea Football Association, the AFC outlined the current status of its commercial relationships.

"The AFC is currently undertaking the end of agreement reconciliation process with SportFive, following the process set out in the Master Rights Agreement," the confederation said in a written response.

"This reconciliation is impacted by the renegotiation with current sponsors and broadcast partners that is necessary as a result of competition cancellation and/or postponement due to COVID-19.

"With regard to FMA, the AFC continues to review with FMA the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the AFC's commercial programme and the agency agreement, and assess what changes if any are required as a result."

Meanwhile, the confederation inaugurated its 47th member as the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association was granted full membership, 11 years after becoming a provisional member. (Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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