Qatar are the holders of the Asian Cup, and one of four countries bidding to host the tournament in 2027 ©Getty Images

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has delayed the selection of the host for the 2027 Asian Cup until 2022 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

It had been hoped that the winner of the selection process would be announced at the 31st AFC Congress at the end of November.

However, the AFC Executive Committee has pushed this timeline back to allow more time for inspection visits to bidding countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc for international travel, with many countries across the Asian continent imposing travel bans or strict quarantine requirements for foreign visitors.

Four member associations of the AFC are in contention to be awarded hosting rights - the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI), the Qatar Football Association (QFA) and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF).

The Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) also expressed interest in staging the 2027 competition, but dropped out of the running in December 2020.

India and Saudi Arabia have never hosted the Asian Cup before, while Iran held it in 1968 and 1978 and Qatar in 1988 and 2011.

The QFA also won bidding rights for the 2022 FIFA World Cup back in 2010.

India is one of four bidders for the 2027 Asian Cup ©Getty Images
India is one of four bidders for the 2027 Asian Cup ©Getty Images

Saudi Arabia and Qatar both competed to stage the 2030 Asian Games last year amid political tensions between the countries - Qatari capital Doha eventually came out on top, although Saudi capital Riyadh was awarded the 2034 Games.

Relations between the two nations have since improved.

The Sport and Rights Alliance has urged the AFC to ensure that standards are mandated on core labour, anti-corruption and human rights as part of the bidding process and hosting agreement.

All four of the potential hosts have faced criticism for their record on human rights.

The 2023 Asian Cup will be held in China.

Thirteen countries have qualified already, with the third round of qualification pushed back to February 2022 after the COVID-19 pandemic saw a number of World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers postponed earlier this year.

The competition expanded from 16 to 24 teams when it was held in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.

Qatar overcame Japan in the final in Abu Dhabi to win the Asian Cup for the first time.