During the 11th membership congress of the Chinese Football Association today, Chen Xuyuan, formerly chairman at the Shanghai International Port Group, which owns Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG, was elected as the body’s new chairman, with Du Zhaocai, Sun Wen and Gao Hongbo elected as vice-chairmen.
Du is a Fifa council member and deputy minister of China’s State General Administration of Sport, while Gao and Sun played for the Chinese men’s and women’s national teams respectively.
Gao was also previously the Chinese men’s national team coach from 2009 to 2011 and again in 2016, and Sun, who played at four women’s World Cups, shares the title of Fifa’s Women’s Player of the Century with American footballer Michelle Akers.
A new 35-member executive committee was also appointed, with representatives from CSL clubs, media, schools, local football associations and other football-related sectors. This includes Wang Weiping, the director for the Guangdong provincial sports bureau, Yang Nan, the chairman for the Henan Football Development Foundation, Zhang Yadong, the president of China League One club Zhejiang Greentown FC, and Yi Rentao, the chairman of the Chinese media company Wuhan DDMC Culture Company.
The leadership reshuffle at the CFA is part of the changes made after the Chinese government released a plan to reform the country’s football scene in 2015. As such, those experienced in football and sport management have been drafted in to evolve the leadership beyond being merely an administrative body.
China has previously stated its aim to qualify for the 2022 Fifa World Cup, and become a footballing powerhouse by 2050 in the long term.
It won the rights to host the 2023 Asian Cup last year, and proposed Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xi’an as host cities.
The country is in the midst of plans to construct new stadiums for the competition by the end of 2021, with the final to be held at Shanghai Pudong football stadium, for which construction is currently underway.
Newly-elected president Chen said to Xinhuanet: “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. The owners have invested a lot but earn little back, and some lower league clubs are on the edge of bankruptcy.”
“I realised this to be detrimental to Chinese football when I was at Shanghai SIPG, and I felt more anxious about this while preparing for the CFA election in the past three months.”
He said his first move would be to focus on making the CSL run independently, as it is currently managed directly by the CFA. His vision is for the CSL to operate like the English Premier League or Spain’s LaLiga, where member clubs are shareholders, with the CFA instead functioning as a supervisory party.
Chen said: “I think in the future, the CSL and the CFA will be partners. As long as we make the rules clear, there won’t be much conflict between the two and our professional leagues will be able to develop themselves better.”
After the congress, executive committee member Yi said to local media that he will focus on expanding the influence of Chinese companies and the Chinese football industry in Asian football, and invite the AFC federation leadership to visit China later this year, as part of his position in the executive committee.
“Chinese football is in its best stages of growth since achieving qualification for the World Cup in 2002. In recent years the government at all levels has prioritised the growth of the sport, and a good legal framework has created an environment for fair competition.”
“The commercial rights of the Chinese football industry continues in an upward momentum, with an increasing number of fans in the stands for games. We have every reason to be confident for the Chinese football scene.”
As the chairman of Wuhan DDMC, who are also the AFC’s commercial rights partners, Yi has previously stated his company’s intention to tap into the growing Chinese market, as well as the sport’s presence in Asia as a whole, to transform the governing body’s competitions into “truly world-class properties”.
After securing the near-global media and global marketing rights to all AFC competitions in June 2018, Yi said: “This is the first time that a Chinese enterprise has secured a comprehensive commercial mandate for a prestigious global football property.
“We believe that the joint venture with Fortis Sports AG will be highly beneficial to both partners in delivering the very best service and results to the AFC. Based partly on the booming Chinese sports market, our cooperation with the AFC will help the AFC take Asian football to the next level and kick-off a golden decade of growth.”