Coronavirus: AFC expects Asian Champions League and AFC Cup to be completed this year

UAE have four clubs in the group stages of Asia's top-level club competition, which has been on hold since the outbreak

The Asian Football Confederation is expecting the continent's top club competitions to go ahead year amid the coronavirus pandemic, even if it  means games will be played in empty stadiums.

Professional football around the world has gone into lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak, including the Asian Champions League and the second-tier AFC Cup, which are both on hold until at least the end of June.

Windsor John, general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said he was confident both competitions would both be completed.

"Both will be played this year. We still have time," John told AFP, adding that new dates for the competitions may be known by the end of April.

However, John did not rule out matches being played without fans "if that's what the health authorities need".

The AFC is determined for both tournaments to go ahead "for sporting reasons and to fulfil commercial obligations", he said.

His comments came after the AFC on Tuesday announced the indefinite postponement of all matches scheduled for May and June due to the virus.

The Champions League, the region's premier club competition, and the second-tier AFC Cup were both halted in March as the pandemic's spread forced governments to impose strict travel restrictions.

Both tournaments are on an increasingly tight schedule, with the 32-team Champions League needing to complete four rounds of group-stage matches in July before the postponed knock-out phase begins in August.

The UAE has four clubs competing in the Champions League group stage: Al Wahda, Shabab Al Ahli, Sharjah, and Al Ain.

The group phase of the AFC Cup will also have to be completed in a rush once matches resume.

The finals for both tournaments - which traditionally take a break in July, to avoid the worst of the Asian summer heat - are scheduled to take place in November.

Domestic leagues remain on hold around the world, including the UAE's Arabian Gulf League, and organisers have resolved to make a decision on the suspended season by the end of the month, with a cancellation of the campaign unlikely.

Asia's extended shutdown, announced on Tuesday, also affects the two-legged women's Olympic qualifying play-off between China and South Korea, which had already been moved to June 1 and 9.

June qualifiers for the men's 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup had been postponed before the AFC's announcement on Tuesday, with the UAE scheduled to face Thailand and Vietnam during that time.

Asian football was an early sporting casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, before competitions in Europe - including Euro 2020 - and the rest of the world were also affected.