Lavish club spending ruled offside

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail SHINE, December 21, 2018
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The Chinese Football Association (CFA) on Thursday announced a set of financial restraints to be imposed on clubs in the Chinese Super League (CSL) and lower professional leagues from 2019.

In a bid to clamp down on lavish spending by clubs, the Chinese Football Association has introduced salary and bonus caps as well as curbs on financial investment. 

This is to create a sustainable environment for the domestic leagues. The caps, as well as some adjustments in league regulations, were unveiled at the CFA's professional league year-end conference in Shanghai yesterday.

Next season, each Chinese Super League club shall spend no more than 1.2 billion yuan (US$174 million), while the investment cap for the second and third-tier league clubs has been set at 200 million yuan and 35 million yuan, respectively. Costs for youth training is not included.

The investment cap will be further lowered to 1.1 billion yuan in the 2020 season and 900 million yuan in the 2021 season for CSL clubs.

As for players' salaries, a CSL domestic player's salary shall be no higher than 10 million yuan a year before tax. For those taking part in Asian Cup and World Cup qualifiers, the cap is 12 million yuan. Foreign players are not affected by the salary cap. In-contract domestic players can complete their existing contracts before new-cap restrictions take effect.

Also, players' salary cost, including foreign players, shall take up no more than 65 percent of a CSL club's total spending in the 2019 season. The figure will be further lowered to 60 percent in 2020 and 55 percent in 2021. Currently, player salaries take up no less than 70 percent in a CSL club's annual spending.

CSL clubs have created a big-spending image over the past few years to attract big-name foreign players and coaches in their push for silverware. 

Two years ago, Brazil midfielder Oscar joined the current CSL champion Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea for an Asian-record 60 million euros (US$69 million).

According to Asian Football Confederation statistics, the 16 CSL clubs spent a total of US$696 million on player salaries in 2018 — nearly three times that of the Japanese Football League's US$240 million.

But the CFA has since moved to stop the splurge and force teams to focus on youth development instead. There is unlikely to be serious money spent when the winter transfer window opens on January 1.

According to the new bonus cap rule, the bonus for winning an AFC Champions League match shall be no higher than 6 million yuan. The cap for drawing an ACL match is 2 million yuan. For the CSL, the bonus cap for winning and drawing a match is 3 million yuan and 1 million yuan, respectively.

A new deficit cap will be introduced for clubs in the top two tiers. For CSL clubs, the cap is 320 million yuan in 2019, 290 million yuan in 2020 and 270 million yuan in 2021.

AFC figures further show that CSL clubs reported a total deficit of US$700 million in 2017. According to a year-end financial report by CSL powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande, the club's deficit reached 1.24 billion yuan in 2017.

The new regulations also stipulate caps on cash injections from team owners, in order to reduce dependence on a parent company or a single shareholder. Every CSL club will be allowed to receive US$94.2 million in cash injections in 2019, with that amount decreasing year on year over the next three years.

Any club that fails to follow the caps will be punished by having quotas deducted when introducing new players, or having league points docked.

"Since agreements on these caps have already been reached, all clubs should be honest and follow them strictly," CFA Vice President Li Yuyi said.

He added that the new policies were introduced after CFA officials visited the 37 clubs in the three tiers of the league. 

"If there's only investment but no clear idea of what the long-term returns are, Chinese football is not sustainable," he said.

Apart from the caps, adjustments in league rules were also unveiled at yesterday's conference.

In 2019, CSL clubs shall send no fewer than three under-23 players for each match, and at least one of them should start the match. The previous rule was that the number of U23 players was no less than the number of foreign players in each match. Under the new rule, a club should send at least three U23 players even if it sends out an all-Chinese squad.

The CFA's aim of bringing up more young players is also showcased in its new U21 players rule — at least two out of the 27 domestic players each CSL club registers for the 2019 season should be U21 players cultivated by the club's own training system. The U21 players should have registered with, trained and played in the club for at least three years.

The rules for foreign players remain the same — four registered for a season and at most three appearing for each CSL match.

If two teams are tied on points at the end of the 2019 CSL season, their positions will be decided by goal difference and total goal number instead of match results against each other. If they are still tied in goal number, the clubs' youth team league results will be taken into consideration.

The 2019 CSL will kick off on March 1. In 2018, each CSL match attracted an average of 24,100 spectators, 3,000 more than the previous season.

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