China caps salaries in bid for 'sustainable" soccer growth

Published 3:41 am CST, Monday, December 14, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese Football Association is capping salaries for domestic and foreign players in its top-flight Super League in what it describes as a bid to maintain “sustainable growth” over the long term.

Also under the new rules issued Monday, all professional teams will be barred from showing the names of corporate sponsors on their playing shirts or provide any information on the jerseys other than the club name and its home city or province. All but one of the 16 teams in the league uses its sponsor as part of its official name. The changes are expected to be implemented before the start of the 2021 season.

Chinese soccer authorities are attempting to improve the quality of play in the domestic competition while cutting down the influence of owners and sponsors seeking publicity without committing to develop the sport.

High salaries offered to Chinese and foreign talent are seen as a major drain on the finances of clubs that draw less from ticket sales and marketing strategies employed by clubs in Europe and Japan.

For the 2021-2023 seasons, salaries for Chinese players cannot exceed 5 million yuan ($765,000) and top salaries for foreign players will be capped at 3 million euros ($3.6 million), the CFA said in a statement. Media reports said some Chinese players may have their pay slashed by as much as half.

Clubs will be allowed to spend no more than 10 million euros ($12 million) on foreign players and all outside income earned by players must be declared to the association, the statement said.

That will make it difficult for some clubs to retain all their star imports, who command the league’s highest salaries.

Brazilian midfielder Oscar left Chelsea after four years in the English Premier League to join Shanghai SIPG in 2017 in one of the high-profile transfers that highlighted the growing influence of the Chinese league around that time. He is reported to be earning 450,000 euros ($545,000) a week.

The CFA said it was seeking to “resolutely block money football and an investment bubble while ensuring the health and sustainable development of our teams and our league.”

China is a sporting power in summer Olympic sports, but a perennial underperformer in men’s soccer, having only qualified once for the World Cup.

Chinese President has promoted a national program of building China into a world football power through the expansion of youth training programs, but the Super League’s reliance on high-profile foreign players and the lack of overseas experience among national team players are seen as slowing that progress.

The CFA’s new restrictions come at the end of a season truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the absence of Chinese teams from the eastern conference final in the Asian Champions League.

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