Saudi Arabia, Iran dispute forces Champions League schedule switch

DOHA, Qatar -- The Asian Football Confederation has switched its Champions League schedule to delay matches between clubs from Saudi Arabia and Iran amid diplomatic tension.

The AFC says it set a March 15 deadline for "a return to normal relations" otherwise all matches between teams from the countries will be played at neutral venues.

The governing body wants "to obtain independent evaluation on the safety and security situation" by mid-March.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran this month in a dispute that escalated after Riyadh executed an opposition Shiite cleric.

The Saudi football federation supports its clubs who refuse to travel to Iran.

Matches in Iran for Saudi clubs Al Hilal and Al-Nassr due on Feb. 24 and March 1, respectively, are now scheduled for May 3 and April 20.