The 2016 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Champions League, a football competition for clubs of the Arabian Peninsula, has been postponed until next year after a major sponsor of the tournament merged with other host companies.
The GCC Football Organising Committee took the decision as it felt it didn’t have enough time before the competition, slated for next month, to find a new sponsor to replace World Sport Group, a sports marketing, event management and media firm in Asia which has now ceased activity as a sole company.
The Committee said in a statement that it has sent messages to the GCC Federations, to inform their clubs of the decision.
Apologising for the delay, Committee secretary Mirza Ali also thanked the Federations and clubs for their cooperation over the past period.
The annual GCC Champions League, formerly known as the Gulf Cup for Clubs, was first held in 1982 with 30 editions having taken place to date.
Despite initially experiencing much popularity, the tournament has faced decline in more recent years following the inauguration of the Asian Champions League in 2002 and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup in 2004.
The Asian Champions League is recognised as the premier club competition on the continent, equivalent to the UEFA Champions League in Europe.
Qualification for the AFC Cup is available to clubs from AFC-affiliated countries that fall into the AFC's "developing nations" category.
The "developing nations" are the 14 "next-best" countries that lie outside the top-14 nations in the AFC region, which send their clubs to the more prestigious AFC Champions League.
The introduction of the two tournaments has meant many Gulf clubs have been unable to participate in the GCC Champions League.
Dubai-based Al-Shabab won last year’s GCC Champions League after beating Omani sports club Al-Seeb 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the final.
As three-time winners, Al-Shabab are one of the three most successful clubs in the competition’s history along with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ettifaq and Al-Ahli.
Saudi Arabia are the best performing nation with 13 titles shared among their clubs.