By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese FA Cup winners Shandong Luneng have been kicked out of this year’s Asian Champions League after the Asian Football Confederation withdrew the club’s licence for the continental championship due to outstanding overdue payments.
Shandong, who beat Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese FA Cup final to qualify, had been drawn to face Port FC from Thailand, Hong Kong’s Kitchee and a playoff winner in Group J.
The group phase of the competition is scheduled to begin in April with the opening rounds due to be played in centralised venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Asian Football Confederation’s independent Entry Control Body has withdrawn the licence of Shandong Luneng FC to participate in the AFC Champions League 2021 pursuant to Articles 7.3.4 and 7.3.5 of the AFC Club Licensing Regulations,” the AFC said in a statement issued on Monday.
“It was determined that Shandong Luneng FC had not satisfied the mandatory Criterion F.04 of the AFC Club Licensing Regulations concerning overdue payables and, accordingly, should not have been granted a licence.
“Shandong Luneng FC has been declared ineligible to participate in the AFC Champions League 2021 and the available slot shall be reallocated in accordance with the Entry Manual for AFC Club Competitions.”
Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu Suning and twice Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande have qualified for the group phase of the competition while Beijing Guoan will feature in the playoff rounds in mid-April.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Ken Ferris)