In political science, diplomacy, and economics, there is something called “externalities theory”. While there are some differences in application due to the nature of the discipline, the idea is similar. The idea is that a third party’s political or economic activities or institutional changes will have an impact, ultimately leading to changes in the groups, countries, and companies that have an interest in them.
In sports, especially soccer, which is one of the most globally connected sports, externalities can change rapidly as associations, organizations, and teams adopt institutions. The time it takes for a policy or rule to take effect after being discussed and decided upon by FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the European Football Association (UEFA), and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is getting faster and faster.
The latest event to shake up the domestic soccer world is the AFC’s overhaul of club competitions. Starting in the 2023-24 season, the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) will join the world’s major soccer competitions with the introduction of the Chinese New Year. It’s hard to go against the grain. The Japanese J-League is also close to making the switch.
Fan Kiwoo’s FIFA Club World Cup→ACLE-ACL2-ACGL expansion→Korean soccer?
In addition to announcing the introduction of the 2024-25 season, he also unveiled a plan to split the current ACL into the Asian Football Confederation Champions League Elite (ACLE) for the top elite teams, ACL2 and the AFC Challenge League (ACGL) for the lower tiers. Foreigners will also be removed from the competition, making it a fully-funded competition.
The idea is to create a leveled competition similar to UEFA’s Champions League (UCL), Europa League (UEL), and Conference League (UECL). The ACLE will feature the top 24 teams from East and West Asia. The prize pool for the championship is $12 million (approximately KRW 16 billion) and the runner-up prize is $6 million (approximately KRW 8 billion). The 2023-24 season of the ACL will have a $4 million prize pool.
Given the revenue structure of the K League, which is unique in that it is a non-commercialized, citizen’s league, a runner-up finish is enough to make a team greedy, as it earns half of the club’s operating expenses for a year. This year’s K League 1 championship prize of 500 million won and runner-up prize of 200 million won is even more attractive when you consider that winning the FA Cup, which is organized by the Korea Football Association to determine the best professional and amateur teams, costs 300 million won.
For the ACLE, Saudi Arabia and Japan have earned three tickets each, while South Korea, Qatar, Iran, and China have 2+1 (direct + PO). United Arab Emirates and Thailand have 1+1 each, and Uzbekistan, Australia, Iraq, and Malaysia have 1 each. Each of the 12 teams will play a pool league in groups of two, with the top eight teams advancing to the Round of 16, with home and away matches to determine the quarterfinalists. From the quarterfinals onwards, teams from East and West Asia will gather at a specific venue and play a pool league until the final.
The winner will also have a good chance of qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup, which will expand to 32 teams in 2025. The Club World Cup, as it is called, has a total prize pool of €150 million (estimated). Even if you make it to the main round, you’re looking at at least 5 billion won.
ACL2 will feature 32 countries, just like the current ACL. North Korea stands out. North Korea has secured a spot in the PO. The winner of their national league will play in the PO. This could be North Korea’s strongest soccer team, 4-25. 4-25 was a regular finalist in the AFC Cup. If they make it to the main draw of the ACL2, they’ll get a lot of attention. If they meet a K League team, a North-South derby is possible.
The current AFC Cup, which features teams from developing Asian soccer nations like India and Iraq, will be reorganized into the ACGL with 20 teams competing. While Asian soccer is not yet at the same level as Europe and South America, it is positive that there are some interesting elements such as tiered promotion. North Korea is expected to qualify for the ACGL.
FA Cup in disrepute, ACLE direct qualification questioned… What’s the debate?
Heading into the second half of the season, the K League should start discussing the allocation of ACLE spots now. Last year’s K League 1 champions Ulsan Hyundai, second-place Jeonbuk Hyundai, and third-place Pohang Steelers went straight to the ACL, while fourth-place Incheon United secured a playoff spot and defeated Hai Phong FC (Vietnam) to make its first appearance. Last year, Jeonbuk won the FA Cup, giving the fourth-place team a taste of the ACL.
However, the reorganization of the ACLE and ACL2 for next season will increase the need for qualification. Many clubs are arguing that the first and second places should go directly to the ACLE and the FA Cup winner should receive a playoff ticket to increase competitiveness. A senior club official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “There is a problem with the FA Cup going straight to the ACLE. It doesn’t make sense to give the same direct ticket for winning the cup after a few games as for a longer race.”
A senior B team official also said, “I think the intention of the AFC’s reorganization is to create a league based on merit, which means that the league should be more competitive, so it is appropriate for the first and second places to have a direct ticket. The third-placed ACL2 will also have a level, so it is unreasonable to give them a direct ticket to the FA Cup.”
The voice on the ground is leaning towards the leagues rather than the FA. If a team wins two titles, the fourth place in the league could go to ACL2, which would increase the competition for places in Final A (1-6) under the current split system.
The KFA says it will discuss the matter with the Football Association first. A senior official said: “The Football Association also wants to establish its authority in the FA Cup, so there is a possibility that they will stick with the direct ticket. We’ll have to talk to them, but we don’t know who to talk to.”
There’s a reason for this. There’s no one in charge of ACL issues in the FA’s reorganization. This is in line with recent personnel changes at the FA. If the competition and technical departments are involved in things like the FA Cup and team development, it would make sense for the head of the department to have a conversation with the professional leagues.
Of course, considering that it is a matter to be decided by the board of directors, it is reported that there are quite a few opinions that the technical development committee or the competition committee, which discusses the development of soccer, needs to have a basic discussion. There are also members of professional leagues and clubs on the board, but it is difficult to know who will actually take the initiative to organize it, such as someone from a professional league who is unable to find an interlocutor.
Recently, the FA has taken the FA Cup out of its own hands. They made a comedy of errors by unilaterally changing the schedule without consulting the clubs and reducing the final to a single-legged tie. It’s no wonder clubs want the FA Cup to be a PO instead of a direct route to the ACLE.
Outside the country, there is a big push to expand the size of the soccer market. Saudi Arabia has been making a lot of noise, using its vast oil money to buy stars from Europe’s big leagues. Cristiano Ronaldo’s excitement over his ACL tear is just one example. Johor Darul Taqzim, a team directly controlled by the Malaysian royal family, stunned Ulsan last year with a colorful squad. Head coach Hong Myung-bo is out for revenge. It’s a sign that Asian soccer is on a path of upward leveling.
South Korea, which does not have a single sponsor in the AFC, needs to change quickly if it wants to earn foreign currency on the field. The difficulty is compounded if the country sticks to the status quo without reacting.메이저사이트
“When you think it’s too late, it’s really too late. So start now,” as a famous comedian once said, the KFA needs to sit down with the professional leagues and speed things up before time runs out.