Laos champions Lanexang United have withdrawn from the 2017 AFC Cup.
The club have also pulled out of the 2017 Laos Premier League, which has been plunged into turmoil as eight other teams have already done the same.
In a statement published on their Facebook page, Lanexang wrote that the current situation “renders the commercial viability of football in Laos as untenable”.
Lanexang were drawn in Group H of the AFC Cup and qualified for the tournament after winning 24 of their 26 games last season to be crowned Laos Premier League champions.
“Lanexang United Football Club regretfully announces its formal withdrawal from the 2017 Lao Premier League and 2017 AFC Cup competitions, effective immediately,” the statement said. “The club has been left in an unfortunate position subsequent to the official withdrawal of eight football clubs in the Lao Premier League competition for 2017. The potential six team Premier League competition in Laos for 2017 has rendered the commercial viability of football in Laos as untenable, and Lanexang United has been forced to withdraw.
“Our sponsors have also withdrawn their support for the club based on the dire situation of the upcoming domestic league for 2017. Further, our club has recently received allegations of the involvement with contracting players who may be involved in the manipulation of professional football matches. We unequivocally refute any possibility of Lanexang United to be involved in such conduct.
“Our withdrawal from all major competitions for 2017 is a further sign of our support to the relevant authorities to finalise their investigations, without the involvement of our club in official competitions.
“We take this stance to await formal and legal proceedings in relation to match manipulation before our club is prepared to enter future FIFA or AFC sanctioned tournaments. We also await the response from the Lao Football Federation in relation to the significant withdrawal of football clubs from the domestic league.”
Lanexang’s general manager Kaz Patafta admitted that he had huge concerns about the future of the club and Laos football as well.
“The club was left with no other alternative, but to withdraw from the domestic league, due to the confirmation of only four teams for 2017,” Patafta told ESPN FC. “The inability to field a professional domestic league has a contagion effect that we have tried to mitigate for the past few weeks.
“Without a domestic league, there is limited commercial viability for our partners, and their withdrawal of support makes it extremely difficult to field a team in the AFC Cup.
“At this time, we have received no comment or support from the Laos Football Federation so I am not in a position to suggest whether it is permanent. Until the governing body for football in Laos is able to provide a sustainable, professional and safe league, inclusive of AFC club licensing regulations, the club and football as a whole will stagnate.
“We have shown as a club what we were able to achieve in a short period of time and the hope would be that we can continue on the same path. However, without a competitive youth and senior league in Laos, the prospects for professional football will be bleak.
“We hope that the governing body has a solution to support all clubs, not only Lanexang United.”