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Sports authority proposes cap on football salaries

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-13 07:13

As China's lavish football clubs continue to sign foreign stars for staggering sums of money, the country's top sports body is considering imposing a salary cap to restrict excessive spending and achieve more sustainable development of the domestic league.

A cost ceiling for players should be set to curb the mounting financial burden on clubs, the General Administration of Sport of China, the country's top sports body, said in a statement released on Jan 5. It also said more transparent financial auditing of clubs should be conducted.

"A series of issues, such as clubs spending excessively on overpriced foreigners - while neglecting investment in youth training - have been hampering the long-term development of the game," the statement said.

Chinese Super League clubs spent $363 million (345 million euros; 298 million) on star imports early last year, followed by the arrival of another costly foreign legion in December, including Brazilian midfielder Oscar and Argentine striker Carlos Tevez.

On Dec 23, Oscar was signed by Shanghai SIPG, from English Premier League giant Chelsea, for $63.5 million, eclipsing the previous record of $58.9 million paid by SIPG for his compatriot Hulk in July.

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, another CSL club in the city, announced three days later the signing of Tevez, a former Manchester City striker, from Argentine club Boca Juniors for $11 million over two-years.

With CSL's winter transfer window open until Feb 28, more expensive signings are expected.

Some established overseas professional sports leagues, such as the National Basketball Association, have long used salary caps to keep the investment of each team within a reasonable range.

However, it would be difficult for Chinese football to cap itself at the moment, despite good intentions, observers say.

"The sentiment is a positive thing, as the spending is clearly way out of control. It's a good thing that people in power look to try to control the spending," says Mark Dreyer, founder of the China Sports Insider website.

"The problem is that it's extremely hard to institute a cap to an existing league, and to get it right with the amount," he says, because the salary cap constantly changes in overseas leagues based on league income.

"To bring it into existing leagues, with players already fixed on multi-year contract, is very tricky," Dreyer says.

Tan Jianxiang, a sports sociology expert at South China Normal University, says clubs could still bypass the mandatory ceiling by compensating their star players in the name of training or traffic subsidies.

"The administration should focus more on making policies to inspire more investment in youth development, rather than dictating the financial operation of the league," he says.

The administration also said in its Jan 5 statement that the CSL should allocate funding from its annual revenues to support the development of reserve teams and youth leagues.



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