Al Ahli would have to continue as Al Ahli in ACL: AFC
Al Ahli and Al Shabab players during an Arabian Gulf League game, two years ago. Both the clubs as well as Dubai FC have been merged to become Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
Dubai - The Club Competition Regulations do not permit a change of name, the governing body said
Al Ahli may have merged with Al Shabab and Dubai FC to form one entity called 'Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club,' but the Red Knights will have to continue to play as Al Ahli for the remainder of the AFC Champions League this season, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Thursday.
Al Ahli, runners-up in 2015 to Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande, are in the Round of 16 in the Asian competition after topping Group A in the pool stage. They are set to take on their namesake from Saudi Arabia over two legs next week and the week after.
Al Ahli are away in Jeddah on May 22 before entertaining Al Ahli at home on May 29.
To a query from the Khaleej Times, the AFC said that the Club Competition Regulations does not permit a change of name but did add that in terms of players, the club could go in for reinforcements during the new player registration window in August, if the team reaches the quarterfinals.
"The Club Competition Regulations do not permit a change of name," the AFC said in an e-mail on Thursday.
"Should merged clubs reach the last eight, there is a new player registration window in August which will allow the nomination of new players," the AFC added.
It means that Al Ahli will have to go it alone and under the same name in the Round of 16 and beyond. But they could add new players during the August window if they progress to the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, there is also a question mark on Al Ahli or Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club's participation in next season's AFC Champions League. The Red Knights had finished third in the Arabian Gulf League to earn a playoff spot in next year's continental competition.
With the club now being rebranded as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, the AFC said that while the clubs can register for next year's AFC Club Competitions, an independent body will make a ruling on their participation.
"Clubs can register in September for the 2018 AFC Club Competitions. If they have not been in existence for three years in their current entity the Independent Entry Control Body will make a ruling on their eligibility," the AFC said.
The Independent Entry Control Body was formed at the end of last year to rule on eligibility of clubs for AFC Competitions.
Al Ahli, Shabab and Dubai FC are not the only clubs to have merged. Qatar Stars League champions Lekhwiya and El Jaish were merged last month to form Al Duhail.