CFA refutes reports on changes in CSL foreign player quota

BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 16: Team of Beijing Guoan celebrates after the goal scored during the Chinese Super League match against Shanghai Shenhua at Workers Stadium on March 16, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

After local media reported an increase of the Chinese Super League’s quota for foreign  players last week, the Chinese Football Association released a statement on Tuesday saying those reports are “completely false information”.

The Chinese football governing body added: “We have never discussed cancelling foreign player limits in the CSL, and will publish new regulations on foreign players by the end of the year, which is for the healthy development of the professional leagues, Chinese footballers and young players.”

The CFA also rubbished reports that it planned to increase to increase the number of naturalised players available to play for the national football team to 50, saying: “We will execute a very careful policy to introduce a strictly limited number of naturalized players.”

According to current CSL regulations, each club can play a maximum of three foreign players simultaneously in a match. Local media reports last week had suggested that the CFA and CSL were to introduce rule changes ahead of the new season, with a relaxing of the foreign player quota, allowing teams to register six and play four per game.

This had the Chinese football fraternity up in arms over a lack of opportunities for domestic players. Other Asian leagues have loosened restrictions in recent years, with the Saudi Super League allowing for seven foreigners and one on the substitute lineup. The Japanese J-League has no restrictions, but clubs can only have five foreigners in their match-day squads.

The CFA is currently in the midst of handing over control of the CSL back to the competition’s clubs, in an effort to encourage its commercial development.

The change is part of reforms promised by recently-appointed CFA president Chen Xuyuan in August, when 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, supervisory role.