(Reuters) - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has changed the order of home matches to be played by Chinese clubs in the AFC Champions League group stage due to the outbreak of a new coronavirus in the country, Asian soccer’s governing body said on Wednesday.
The move follows consultation with the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and means that home games of the four Chinese clubs on the first three match days will be rescheduled and played away by swapping the order with their opponents.
“The decision, which was also made in conjunction with the competing clubs from the respective groups, is a precautionary measure to ensure the safety and well-being of all participating players and teams,” the AFC said in a statement.
The outbreak has killed over 130 people with almost 6,000 others affected by the flu-like virus that emerged late last year in Wuhan in the central Hubei province.
According to the revised schedule, Beijing Guoan will open their campaign at FC Seoul on Feb. 11 and visit Melbourne Victory on March 3.
Shanghai SIPG’s second group match will be at South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors on Feb. 19 and they face Yokohama F Marinos away after that, while Shanghai Shenhua will travel to Ulsan Hyundai for their second match on Feb. 18.
Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande will travel to Suwon Bluewings on Feb. 12.
The AFC added it will monitor the situation before deciding further on the home matches of Chinese clubs on the next three match days.
Shanghai SIPG entered the group stage by winning a playoff match against Thai side Buriram United, a match played behind closed doors on Tuesday to reduce chances of infection.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christopher Cushing