KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Super League champions next year are guaranteed a berth in the 2019 AFC Champions League group stage but Pahang's decision not to play in the AFC Cup could have future ramifications.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general-secretary Datuk Windsor Paul John confirmed that Malaysia are guaranteed one slot in the Champions League group stage for both 2019 and 2020.
But he warned that if Malaysia have only one representative in the 2018 AFC Cup, the country's club ranking could fall.
"Malaysia have just moved past Hong Kong by a small margin to gain a berth in the Champions League group stage for 2019 and 2020," said Windsor today.
"But to stay ahead in the rankings, Malaysian clubs need to be playing in AFC competitions. If you don't gain points, then your ranking will drop.
"I fear that Malaysia may come to regret Pahang's decision not to play in the AFC Cup in the future. The ramifications could come in four years' time for a decision made today."
Windsor explained that club performances accounted for 90 per cent of a country's club ranking with the remainder coming from the national team's Fifa ranking.
The average of total points accrued over a four-year period is used to determine the number of places a country can have in the Champions League and AFC Cup.
In AFC's latest club rankings, Malaysia only edged Hong Kong by a fine margin of 0.266 point to move up to 13th place with 29.300 points, largely as a result of Johor Darul Ta'zim’s performances over the last few years.
"The reason Malaysia have done well is that JDT emerged AFC Cup champions in 2015 and kept Malaysia's flag flying," said Windsor.
"But the points are calculated based on an average and if there is only one club competing in AFC competitions, you will lose out in the end."
JDT's victorious 2015 campaign made up one-third of Malaysia's average club points.
With Pahang's refusal to comply with the FA of Malaysia's directive to play in the AFC Cup, JDT would be Malaysia's sole representative in the second-tier competition if the club do not qualify for the Champions League group stage next month.
Super League runners-up Pahang were invited to take Malaysia's second spot in the AFC Cup after FA Cup winners Kedah failed to obtain an AFC licence.