Dubai: Al Ahli’s Asian Champions League (ACL) future is in doubt following a statement from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) reacting to the club’s merger with Al Shabab and Dubai Club last week.
The Red Knights are through to the Last 16 of this year’s ACL and have qualified to next year’s competition after finishing third in this season’s Arabian Gulf League.
However, the 2015 ACL losing finalists were merged by royal decree with Al Shabab and Dubai Club on Tuesday becoming Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, casting uncertainty on how this would affect Al Ahli’s immediate future in Asia.
Al Ahli play their Saudi Arabian namesakes Al Ahli Jeddah away in the Last 16 first leg on Monday, despite the decree saying their transition to Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club was immediate.
It is understood they will play this game, and the second leg at home on May 29, as Al Ahli. However, the AFC has said that if they qualify to the quarter-finals: “There will be a new player registration window in August which will allow the nomination of new players.”
By that time Al Ahli, as it was, won’t exist, as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club will be registering players for the upcoming domestic season. And the AFC statement added: “The Club Competition Regulations do not permit a change of name.”
As for qualifying to next year’s ACL, the AFC said: “Clubs can register in September for the 2018 AFC Club Competitions. If they have not been in existence for three years in their current entity the Independent Entry Control Body will make a ruling on the eligibility.”
It is not yet clear what will happen if Al Ahli make the quarter-finals of this year’s competition, or whether they will be allowed to play as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club in next year’s edition.