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Chinese Super League caps foreign player salaries at $3.3m

Ultra supporters and fans of the Beijing Guoan FC watch their team play against Chongcing Lifan FC during their Chinese Super League match on June 28, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The Chinese Super League is introducing a range of financial sustainability measures, including a cap on salaries for foreign players of $3.3m (€3m).

News agency Xinhua reports that the league is also capping Chinese players’ salaries at 10m yuan ($1.45m/€1.3m), although Chinese national team players can be paid up to 12m yuan.

Teams will not be permitted to spend more than 1.1bn yuan ($160m/€143m) in total during 2020, and salaries must account for no more than 60 per cent of their spending.

Chinese Football Association chairman Chen Xuyuan said: “Our clubs had too much money burned and our professional football has not been run in a sustainable way. If we don’t take timely action, I fear it will collapse.”

There are also new rules on the number of foreign players that teams can register and play. Reuters reports that, from this season, clubs can buy up to five foreign players, up from four at present, but can play only four in any match.

New rules on ‘naturalised’ Chinese players are also being introduced. Players who were born in China or have Chinese ancestry will not be considered foreign players. Players who have had Chinese citizenship for more than five years or are eligible to play for the Chinese national team are also not considered foreign players.

The Chinese Football Association is keen to curb overspending by clubs on foreign stars. The association wants to improve the commercial viability of CSL clubs, make them more attractive to investors, and to create more room for Chinese players to flourish.

Reuters reports that Chinese football authorities have tried before, with limited success, to rein in club spending. In 2017, it introduced a 100 per cent tax on foreign player transfers worth more than 45m yuan and domestic player transfers worth more than 20m yuan.

The latest rule changes arguably leave clubs a loophole to exploit, in that they do not cover bonuses that could be potentially used to increase players’ remuneration.