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Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) efforts to enhance the financial stability of top Asian club football was underlined as sustainable financial models were cast under the spotlight at the inaugural AFC Inspiring League Forum.

The aim of the two-day forum, which was part of the AFC League Development Programme (LDP), was to stimulate open and constructive discussions on achieving financial sustainability.

“To deliver the best development plans, the best players and top coaches, the financial future of our leagues and clubs must be secure,” said AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John at the opening on Monday.

“Ultimately, the primary aim of this forum and the club licensing system is to maintain the financial security of Asian football clubs, which will have a direct impact on the professionalism and quality of club management and administration. Together we can ensure a bright future for our leagues and clubs under the banner of One Asia, One Goal.”

The forum gathered representatives from Asia’s top leagues, which are among the best-placed Member Associations in the AFC club competitions ranking. These include Australia’s A-League, Chinese Super League, Hong Kong Premier League, Islamic Republic of Iran’s Pro League, Iraqi Premier League, Japan’s J-League, K League in Korea Republic, Qatar Stars League, Saudi Professional League, Thai League 1, the UAE League and the Uzbekistan Professional League.

Setting the context for the forum, participants were presented with an overview of the current financial patterns of teams competing in the AFC Champions League, which indicated that the financial stability of clubs and leagues was being undermined by expenditure exceeding revenue increases.

“Financial stability and income generation are areas that the J.League takes very seriously. We believe that all clubs in the league should practise financial prudence and not just those taking part in AFC club competitions,” Ms Yumiko Kinoshita, Director of the Japan Professional Football League.

“There are many lessons to draw from the sharing session with our fellow MAs and I am particularly pleased with the group sessions to network, and the opportunity to gain insights on cost control measures by the other leagues.”

Participants were also presented with an overview of the cost control measures implemented in Europe by UEFA’s Head of Asia-Europe Affairs, Alex Phillips. League officials from each Member Association also shared an overview of their respective financial models.

“It was a very useful workshop especially for us in Iraq who are hoping to improve our league and clubs with the support of the AFC. We have learnt about the various challenges faced by different MAs and this gives us a better understanding on how we can develop our own regulations to help stabilise our financial situation,” said Dr Nezar Ahmed, Club Licensing Committee Member from the Iraqi Football Association, which is working hard to ensure Iraqi clubs will be eligible to participate in the AFC Champions League in the near future.

The second day of the forum concluded with an in-depth discussion on the need to implement more unified cost control mechanisms and frameworks across the Continent. The recommendations and issues studied over the past two days will be presented to the AFC Club Licensing Taskforce at its next meeting.