Dubai: The UAE Football Association (UAE FA) has backed and justified its decision to cancel all major competitions for the 2019-2020 season after a majority of the clubs had voted in its favour, late on Thursday.
The 14 clubs involved in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) — the country’s top tier of competition — on Thursday voted 8-6 in favour of cancelling all competitions wherein there would be neither new champions nor the relegation of the last two teams.
With just seven rounds of the AGL remaining, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai were at the top of the standings with 43 points after 19 matches, followed by Al Ain (37 points), Al Jazira (36), Al Wahda (35) and defending champions Sharjah (35) to complete the top five.
During Thursday’s vote involving the 14 clubs, six voted in favour of deciding on new champions, while the remaining eight favoured a status quo and cancellation of all competitions that automatically paved the way for the season to conclude with no new champions or relegation.
“The clubs have voted in favour of cancelling all footballing activities and we stand by this decision. The Arabian Gulf League stands cancelled, and as such there will be no champion for the 2019-2020 season, and neither will there be a relegation for the last two teams in the standings,” Abdullah Nasser Al Junaibi, Chairman, UAE Pro League (UAE PLC) told Gulf News, late on Thursday.
“The AGL also issued a statement that reiterated that “in light of the general assembly’s decision, the UAE Pro League board of directors has decided not to complete the 2019-2020 season” leading to the abandoning of the AGL. “All results in the competition and the league table to be considered cancelled, no team to be crowned champions and no teams to be relegated to the First Division and no teams to be promoted to the 2020-2021 UAE Pro League,” the AGL statement further noted.
Also getting cancelled for the third time since its establishment in 1974 is the final of the 44th President’s Cup that was to be contested by Al Ain and Al Dhafra, initially in May. The semi-finals played on March 10 saw Al Ain defeat Sharjah 3-2, while Al Dhafra squeezed past Bani Yas 1-0. The winners of the trophy normally qualify for the AFC Champions League.
The earlier two occasions that the President’s Cup could not be contested was during the 1975-76 season and then the 1977-78 season.
“It is the decision of the clubs. In case we do play the President’s Cup final then it would have to be somewhere in October or November, and that could create an issue as all clubs wouldn’t be having the same roster of players as the current season,” Al Junaibi said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the UAE FA had agreed to cancel the AGL while waiting for Thursday’s extraordinary general assembly to determine the implications of that decision.
One of the impacts of the cancellation of next season’s AGL means that the spots for clubs in continental competitions such as the AFC Champions League will be based on the earlier season. Consequently, Sharjah Club and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will qualify to represent the UAE — as last season’s winners of the AGL and President’s Cup — along with Al Wahda and Al Ain.
“There are so many things that needed to be considered while taking a proper and right decision. A lot of the foreign professionals and staff from the clubs are still out of the UAE and another is their return confirmed at the moment due to the situation with airlines. And even after they enter the country, all of them will have to self-quarantine at home for two weeks,” Al Junaibi said.
“Secondly, when play has been stopped for three to four months, then one would need at least six to eight weeks to return to peak form and start competition. Given the weather situation, it wouldn’t have been the right decision as it would mean compromising with the health and welfare of players.”
Among the other implications that need to be ironed out will be the signing of new players and coaches by clubs in the UAE, while agreeing on a date to start the new season with the traditional Arabian Gulf Super Cup contested between the AGL champion and the President’s Cup winner.