Want to Play in Asia’s Champions League? It Will Cost You.

At least nobody can accuse Asia’s soccer authorities of failing to sweat the small stuff. It would be easy to overlook the little things, after all, when their job is to nurture and promote the most popular sport on the planet for the benefit of almost five billion people spread across a third of the world’s landmass.

In many ways, then, it is admirable that the Asian Football Confederation (A.F.C.) can still find the time to dictate precisely which water bottles, with which labels, fans should be allowed to carry into stadiums. That kind of attention to detail should reassure you that soccer’s future — from Beirut to Beijing, and Ulaanbaatar to Hobart — is in safe hands.

Unfortunately, that is not quite the picture that emerges from a report, commissioned by soccer’s global players’ union, FIFPro, assessing the benefits and shortcomings of Asia’s most prestigious club competition, the Asian Champions League. Instead, the report documents a tournament that acts as an almost perfect microcosm of soccer’s general direction across the globe.

There is plenty of the sort of officious nit-picking beloved of sports authorities. As well as addressing the crucial issue of water bottles, the A.F.C.’s “clean stadium” requirements — the rules that decree that arenas for Champions League games must be free of nonapproved advertising — take on pressing matters like the logos on backpacks and the branding on bottle caps.

The A.F.C. appears to be far less concerned with whether the tournament actually works for the clubs involved. According to estimates from two competing teams, enforcing the clean stadium rules alone costs $50,000 a game.

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