Glory owner shocked by Asian snub
Two months after being assured that Perth would contest the 2012-13 Asian Champions League (ACL), gutted Glory owner Tony Sage is reeling from a “bizarre” decision to limit A-League teams in the competition.
Under the AFC’s new criteria, 2011-12 minor premier Central Coast is a guaranteed starter while defending champions Brisbane Roar must qualify.
That ensures the Glory have been overlooked for the prestigious ACL despite verbal guarantees from AFC officials following their controversial 2-1 A-League grand final loss to the Roar last April.
Sage said he was so sure of their participation that he had spent up to $70,000 on a new jersey design and booked flights and accommodation for Glory officials to attend the official ACL draw in Kuala Lumpur on December 6.
“I am gutted,” he said.
“We hosted a delegation of eight AFC representatives two months ago and were told we were in.
“And we have been told unofficially that we have been in for the last eight months.
“We had spent up to $70,000 on a different kit for the ACL – that’s an extra player for next season that we could have spent that money on.
“And we had a new sponsor on board just for the ACL.
“So to be told a week before the draw Australia have lost a spot is bizarre.”
Sage said the first he had heard of the AFC’s intentions was via the internet.
“Someone alerted me on a blog that Australia may get a team cut. I thought if there was a possibility of that surely they would have alerted us,” he said.
“So that’s what gets me, no one has flagged this. I am in a bit of shock at the moment.
“Who makes these decisions and why are they made?”
Sage said he had spent a “please explain” to Football Federation Australia in a bid to appeal the AFC’s call.
A-League teams’ success – or lack thereof – may have contributed to the AFC’s surprise call.
Only three A-League teams have made the round of 16 in the competition’s history – and Adelaide United is the best placed after making the 2008 final.
Even the two-time champion Roar – considered the A-League team primed to take out the ACL – bombed at the group stage last season.
Brisbane Roar coach Rado Vidosic said the changes appear unfair because Australians place greater importance on grand finals than other soccer nations.
“My understanding is the Asian confederation is classifying our grand final as a cup final so they are taking cup final as a second spot,” he said.
“It’s just something that here in Australia we are very proud of grand finals and somewhere else it is being looked at differently.”