Dubai: Al Ain have been excluded from next year’s Asian Champions League (ACL) after failing to comply with club-licencing requirements, it was announced on Monday.
Al Dhafra, Al Nasr, Al Wasl, Emirates and Sharjah were all granted a licence by the Pro League Committee’s First Instance Body, while Al Jazira and Al Wahda were only given a provisional licence.
The likes of Al Ain, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Bani Yas, Dibba, Ittihad Kalba and Hatta, were all denied a licence.
No official reason has been given for the refusal, thought to be linked to finances, but clubs have five working days from the date of the decision to appeal.
Al Ain had failed to qualify for next year’s ACL anyway after finishing fourth in last season’s Arabian Gulf League. They were leapfrogged by Al Wahda for the ACL play-off spot after the fifth-placed league finishing side won the President’s Cup.
However, when third-placed league finishing Al Ahli — who were 2015 ACL losing finalists — merged with Shabab and Dubai Club over the summer to form Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, they were also excluded from ACL qualification for failing to be in existence for the necessary three year requirement, meaning next placed Al Ain took their spot.
Unless Al Ain successfully appeal, Al Nasr, who finished sixth last season, and are the next ranked club to have passed club licencing, will take Al Ain’s spot in next year’s ACL.
The four clubs representing the UAE in Asia next year will then be last year’s league champions Al Jazira, second-placed Al Wasl, fifth-placed Al Wahda, who will move from a play-off to automatic spot, and sixth-placed Al Nasr, who will now assume the play-off spot.
Al Ain being excluded from the ACL is a massive blow for the club. They have reached the knockouts in this tournament for the past four years running. In a total 12 appearances in the competition since 2003 they have reached three finals, winning once on their debut and losing in 2005 and 2016. They have reached the knockouts a total eight times with four group stage exits. The last time they failed to feature in the tournament was 2012.