AFC President, His Excellency Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and FIFA President Gianni Infantino have both given their full support for the inaugural Asean Club Championship (ACC), which will kick-off next year. The ACC is a competition featuring 12 leading clubs from among the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Member Associations.

Designed to support and incentivise the leading clubs, the AFF believes that the ACC will be the key platform for the next stage of regional development for the top flight professional game.

Organised and sanctioned by the AFF, the ACC will provide a focus on enhancing each venue experience, for fans and players alike, whilst also rewarding successful team performances throughout. Each club will receive a participation fee from the earliest rounds, together with escalating prize money as they progress through the Championship.

“We shared our plans for the club championship with President Infantino and His Excellency Shaikh Salman and they were both supportive,” said AFF President Major General KhievSameth. “We are deeply grateful to have the full support from FIFA and AFC.”

AFF had discussed the ACC with Shaikh Salman in Tajikstan in September before meeting Mr Infantino in Bangkok recently. This was the second time AFF had discussed the ACC with Mr Infantino, the first was in Vientiane last month in a meeting attended by AFF including Laos FA President, Mr ViphetSihachakr. 

Major General Sameth, along with FA of Thailand President Pol. Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung, AFF General Secretary Mr Winston Lee, met up with Mr Infantino who was in Bangkok last week to sign an MOU with the ASEAN Secretariat to jointly boost football in the Southeast Asian region. During his meeting with the ASEAN leaders, Mr Infantino also took the time to share the ACC with the leaders.

Major General Sameth went on to explain that the ACC was a culmination of many intense months of hardwork.

“We took time to put this integrated and holistic plan together as there were numerous factors to consider, including ensuring no conflict in scheduling with the domestic leagues, FIFA and AFC fixtures including that of the expanded ACL. We also had to look into other crucial matters like branding, prize money and format of competition. Then, there were the negotiations with the various commercial partners over the past months before securing the approval of the AFF Council.”

“The ACC plan was finally discussed again at the AFF Special Council Meeting which met in Ho Chi Minh last week, specifically to deliberate and approve the details of the ACC and the Master Rights Agreement. I am pleased to share that the ACC was unanimously approved by all the Member Associations that were present at the AFF Special Council Meeting,” said Major General Sameth. 

The AFF President felt the introduction of the ACC would raise the standard of the national teams and enhance the profiles of the clubs as well as leagues in the region. “The ACC will also help clubs improve their financial standing, promote sports tourism and enhance the football experience of the 650 million football supporters in our region.” 

Later in the day, Mr Infantino, accompanied by Major General Sameth, Pol. Gen. Somyot, Winston and other FA of Thailand officials, attended the Thai FA Cup final between Ratchaburi FC and Port FC. Ironically, the winning club, Port FC, could find its way into ACC next year as some nations, including Thailand, will be eligible to submit two entries. 

The recent announcement by FIFA on the expanded Club World Cup in 2021 is a positive development for the ACC. The increase could pave the way for the possibility of the winner of the ACC to earn a place in the final rounds of the FIFA Club World Cup. “The prospects of playing in the expanded FIFA Club World Cup is enticing and will translate to among other things greater investment by league and clubs in the region thus contributing to the further growth of the football ecosystem in South East Asia,” added Major General Sameth. 

The complete details of the ACC will be revealed at a later date. “These are exciting times for AFF and we are looking forward to the launch of the ACC,” said Major General Sameth.

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