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CFA announces more details of the coming 2020 CSL season

By Shi Futian | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-07-08 19:44
Chinese Super League team Jiangsu Suning (in blue) stepped up preparations for a return to competitive action by playing a friendly against second-tier Taizhou Yuanda in Nanjing, May 8, 2020. Photo provided to CHINA DAILY

Chinese Football Association announced detailed relegation and foreign players policies of the coming 2020 Chinese Super League season on Wednesday after a meeting in Shanghai.

The CFA announced the last week that the 2020 Chinese Super League season will finally kick off behind closed doors on July 25 after a hiatus of a half year. This year's campaign was originally scheduled to begin on Feb 22 until the COVID-19 pandemic forced its postponement.

The postponement forced the soccer governing body had to change this CSL season's match format and a series of policy, especially regarding the relegation and foreign players, because of the shortened schedule and pandemic-related travel restrictions that made many clubs' imported stars unable to return to China.

The CFA has confirmed that the bottom team will be relegated, while the second bottom squad will have a chance to face the second finisher of the second-tier China League One. In normal CSL seasons, the bottom two of the 16-team CSL are automatically relegated, while the top two in the second division are promoted.

However, as many clubs are facing difficulties like the shortage of players and the heavy financial burdens since the pandemic started, not every team is a supporter to the relegation policy.

According to Chinese publication Soccer News, a total of eight CSL clubs called to cancel relegation this season during the CFA's meeting in Shanghai. But the CFA president Chen Xuyuan had an unwavering stand that relegation was essential for a professional soccer league.

"Many clubs have expressed their opinions. With or without relegations, there were several proposed plans. But from the perspective of the law of development of soccer, it's infeasible to cancel relegation in a professional league. No matter how difficult it will be for the clubs, we should follow the law of development," said Chen.

Another major difficulty for the clubs are the shortage of foreign players. Despite many foreign big names have returned to China, such as Guangzhou Evergrande star Paulinho, Dalian Pro head coach Rafa Benitez and Beijing Guoan's Renato Augusto, still not everyone has come back.

In general, the CFA has decided to continue the original foreign player policy. Each club can register six foreign players a season. Five of them can play at each match, while four can be on the pitch simultaneously.

Meanwhile, the CFA had also made protective terms for clubs that could have all of their foreign players back. If a club has no foreign players, its opponent can only use two foreign players on the pitch. If a club has only one foreign player, its opponent can use three foreign players on the pitch. Clubs can apply to use the protective terms to the CFA before July 20.

"The 16 clubs have been working very closely with the local authorities and the Chinese embassies. They have given us good news that two-thirds of the foreign players have already been brought back to China," said Liu Yi, the CFA's secretary-general, to the China Global Television Network. "In the next two week, probably another 12-15 international player will fly back to China as well. "

The CFA had originally planned for a late-June start to the season, which reportedly failed to earn government approval due to inadequacies identified in the governing body's health and safety measures. So epidemic prevention is a key work for the CFA to stage the match.

"We have to make sure that not a single people in the league can be infected by the virus after the season returns," said Chen. "We have to keep everyone healthy and keep the season in order. We're prepared for all difficulties."

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