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Chinese Football Association to hand control of Super League to clubs

Control of the Chinese Super League, China’s top football league, is being handed over by the Chinese Football Association to the competition’s clubs in an effort to encourage its commercial development.

Currently, the CSL is run by an operating company in which the CFA holds a controlling 36-per-cent stake and the clubs hold 4 per cent each. This means, in effect, that the CFA directly manages the league.

According to local media, Liu Wei, the secretary-general of the CFA, said: “A committee to manage the Chinese Super League is being formed, and moving forwards the CFA will not manage the league, and will relinquish its shareholding of the CSL holding company. The CFA will only maintain governance over major issues, and hold a single vote on the committee.”

The change is part of reforms promised by CFA president Chen Xuyuan in August, when he told 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.”

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.

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.”

Huang Shenghua, the vice-chairman of CSL club Guangzhou R&F, said the league clubs are working quickly to reach agreement on the composition of a management committee, and will incorporate a holding company once that is done.

Liu said he expects the independent Super League to be set up by next month. He also said there would be no major changes in the number of teams in the league for the time being. Any expansion plans will be discussed jointly by the CFA and the league and announced one season in advance.