Sports / China

Chinese soccer league to run its own affairs

By Sun Xiaochen ( Updated: 2016-02-28 18:47

The Chinese Football Association has established an independent body to streamline its organization and run its domestic leagues professionally.

As China's top soccer league continues to make headlines with huge investments in the global transfer market, the administrative management needs to be reformed to match its growing international profile, officials and executives agreed at a meeting on Sunday.

CFA president Cai Zhenhua said a new legal entity will be formed by all professional club shareholders and non-governmental executives to run domestic leagues with independent decision-making rights in commercial operations, league promotion and club management as well as youth development.

"Chinese soccer has been lagging behind the world in all aspects. To overhaul the league management, making it fully professional, should be one of our top priorities this year," Cai told the meeting, which was called to review the past year’s reform measures.

Inspired by President Xi Jinping's fervent wish to see China qualify, host and eventually win the World Cup, the central government stepped in last March by issuing a national reform plan to boost the game’s development at all levels.

Delinking the management of professional leagues from the CFA, which now holds a dominant role in the current league company with its own officials taking charge in major operational aspects of the league, was highlighted as a major step in the plan.

Once the league could be operated by club shareholders and professionals outside the CFA in a similar way to the English Premier League running in parallel with the FA, the Chinese league could be called a "professional" one, said club investors.

"We hope the new league management entity could be established soon so clubs have the power to make decisions based on their own needs," said Hu Baosen, chairman of Chinese Super League club Henan Jianye FC.

Zhang Li, an investor with CSL club Guangzhou R&F, echoed Hu, saying that an independent league entity will allow clubs to maximize their capacity of commercial operation so that they can better cover the increasing investments in club building.

With CSL's 2016 season to kick off on Friday, Chinese clubs have invested heavily in purchasing international stars, expecting good results.

A group of prime foreign players including Brazilian striker Alex Teixeira, who joined Jiangsu Suning in a $54.7 million deal from Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, and former Atletico Madrid forward Jackson Martinez, who signed with CSL Champion Guangzhou Evergrande for $45.9 million, will ply their trade in China this year.

Chinese clubs' total spending of more than $360 million in the global transfer market topped the world during the past winter transfer market, according to German-based industry website Transfermarkt.

The arrivals of high-profile foreign stars will help enhance the league’s appeal globally but only by implementing professional reforms can it develop in a sustainable model to produce enough local talents for China, said Tan Jianxiang a sports sociology professor with South China Normal University.

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