The United Arab Emirates have beaten Iran to host the next edition of the Asian Cup in 2019, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced overnight.
The AFC confirmed their decision following an Executive Committee meeting in the Bahraini capital of Manama. According to the AFC statement, the rights to host the region’s next continental tournament were awarded on the “respective merits of the bids which covered a range of objective criteria including stadiums, transport, infrastructure, hotels, visas and various other sporting, logistical and administrative issues” with a “transparent, detailed and highly competitive bidding process.”
AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa signed a hosting certificate with UAE FA President Yousuf Yaqoob Yousuf Al Serkal, who is also a Vice President of the AFC Executive Committee, at the conclusion of the meeting. The meeting was attended by all members of the committee, including Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, who has nominated himself as a candidate for the next FIFA presidential election.
“I would like to congratulate the UAE FA on their successful bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2019,” said Sheikh Salman.
“The AFC Executive Committee was convinced by the merits of the UAE bid. I firmly believe that the UAE FA will host a tournament that could match and potentially even surpass the stunning AFC Asian Cup 2015 in Australia that we have all just witnessed.”
Japanese wire agency Kyodo News had reported that UAE would be winners of the hosting rights during this year’s edition of the tournament, which was won by host nation Australia.
The UAE’s only competing bid, Iran, was said to have suffered negative attention from a controversial policy of banning women from stadiums. The long-standing regulations recently drew attention from FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The 2019 edition of the Asian Cup will be expanded to 24 teams from 16, while qualification for Asia’s biggest continental competition will now be conducted in conjunction with World Cup qualification. Defending champions Australia will have to earn their place through the qualifiers rather than receiving the automatic qualification that was granted in previous formats.