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CFA halts player contract talks ahead of salary cap

Chen Xuyuan, CFA Chairman. (Image Credit: CFA website)

The Chinese Football Association has instructed Chinese clubs to halt player contract talks as it prepares to introduce new regulations, including a salary cap, next month.

The regulations are being introduced to address and prevent financial problems at clubs. The order to halt talks about new and renewed contracts affects the senior and reserve teams at clubs in the Chinese Super League, and the China League One and Two competitions.

A source from the CFA told Xinhua: “The new regulations are made for promoting the healthy development of Chinese domestic leagues, which plan to relieve the financial burden of clubs and build a standardised salary system, transfer market, supervision system, and youth system.”

The source also said: “The clubs have reached an effective consensus on reducing the financial burden and increasing the protection of youth training. Nearly one third of clubs have unpaid wages, and even Chinese Super League clubs are unsustainable. The leagues have bubbles, which is very dangerous. If the leagues are unstable, the youth training and the national team will be greatly affected.”

A strict salary cap on domestic players, and new policies on foreign players, naturalised players and transfers will be covered in the new regulations, the source said, adding: “More importantly, the CFA will strengthen the supervision and punishment, so the cost of violations will increase.”

The source said the regulations would be published in early December and would not interrupt the winter transfer market.

Last month, the CFA announced it would hand over control of the CSL to the competition’s clubs to encourage its commercial development.

The CFA’s new policies also aim to encourage young Chinese footballers to gain experience playing overseas, according to the source: “The CFA doesn’t want them to stay in domestic leagues and make a great fortune. They should learn from Japanese players to explore top-level football overseas.”

This idea has been echoed by Jindong Zhang, who owns Italian Serie A club Inter Milan. Zhang is also the chairman of Suning Holdings Group, the conglomerate with businesses in retail as well as sports marketing and media. While celebrating the success of the Jiangsu Suning women’s team, who are close to winning their second league title in the last decade, he told Chinese media yesterday: “When the ideal conditions are there, we must bring our best talents to Italy and other European countries so that they can be formed and grow further.

“At the same time, we must strengthen our commercial activities and look for more and more commercial and corporate sponsors. We want to constantly improve the professional construction of the club and promote the development of women’s football in China.”

The CFA’s new regulations are part of reforms promised by recently-elected CFA president Chen Xuyuan. In August, he said: “The CSL and lower leagues have been rapidly developing in recent years, but our professional leagues are still facing a huge crisis.

“The healthy development of professional leagues is the cornerstone of Chinese football. Clubs need to be financially independent. We are far from that.”

He pledged to make the CSL run independently, and said his vision was for it to operate like the English Premier League or Spain’s LaLiga, where member clubs are shareholders, with the CFA operating in a less direct, and more supervisory role.