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Chinese Super League holders Jiangsu FC pull out of AFC Champions League

The Chinese side announced their withdrawal from the ACL a month after their owners ceased their operations due to financial difficulties.

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 2, 2021 shows an aerial view of an empty training centre of Jiangsu FC, formerly known as Jiangsu Suning in Nanjing, in eastern China's Jiangsu province, after Jiangsu FC on February, 28 said they had "ceas

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed on Thursday the withdrawal of Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC from the AFC Champions League, a month after the club's owners ceased their operations as a result of their financial struggles, although the club had made history a few months earlier by claiming the Chinese Super League title for the first time.

"The AFC has taken note of the Chinese Football Association's (CFA) confirmation of Jiangsu FC's withdrawal from participating in this season's AFC Champions League," the Asian football governing body said in a statement.

Following Jiangsu's withdrawal, the play-off between South Korea's Pohang Steelers FC and Thailand's Ratchaburi FC is to be called off with both teams granted automatic qualification to compete in Group G along with Japan's Nagoya Grampus and Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim FC.

Centralized games of the group are set to be held in Thailand between 21 June and 7 July as east region fixtures, which were primarily scheduled for April, have been delayed due to the current covid-19 situation, whereas the west region competition is to take place next month as planned, with the Asian Confederation to adopt a centralization system with this year's group stage games in an attempt to contain the spread of the pandemic.

South Koreans Ulsan Hyundai are the current AFC Champions League title holders as they managed to beat Persepolis of Iran in last year's title decider.