By Michael Church
HONG KONG, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Two-time Asian Champions League finalists Persepolis from Iran will not play in the 2022 edition after having their licenses to participate withdrawn, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Friday.
Tehran-based Persepolis, who lost in both the 2018 and 2020 finals of Asia’s elite club competition, are one of three Iranian clubs to have had their licenses revoked.
Esteghlal, winners of the 1970 and 1991 Asian Club Championship — the forerunner to the Asian Champions League — and Gol Gohar Sirjan are the others.
“The ECB (Entry Control Body) determined that the three clubs had not satisfied all of the mandatory criteria … and, accordingly, should not have been granted licences to participate in the AFC Champions League 2022,” the AFC said.
Persepolis had qualified automatically for the group phase by winning last season’s Persian Gulf Pro League.
Esteghlal, who were also kicked out of the 2007 edition for failing to submit their players’ list on time, had been due to feature in the qualifying rounds after a third-place finish in the Iranian league.
Gol Gohar Sirjan did not qualify for the competition but the sanction means they cannot be nominated as a replacement for either of the excluded teams.
Replacements for Persepolis and Esteghlal will be announced after licensing checks have been completed.
Foolad have already secured their spot in the group phase after winning last season’s Hazfi Cup, Iran‘s primary domestic knockout competition, while league runners-up Sepahan will play in the qualifiers.
The draw for the 2022 Asian Champions League will take place on Jan. 17.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal are the defending champions after they defeated Pohang Steelers from South Korea in the final in November.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Peter Rutherford )