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Shanghai sports chief discusses July CSL start, and F1 races

A general view of the grid before the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2019 (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Xu Bin, the chief of Shanghai’s Sports Bureau, has said that the Chinese Super League is likely to kick off in July and that Formula One is considered running two races in the city this year.

Xu made the comments in an interview with a Shanghai radio station.

Regarding the CSL, China’s top football league, Xinhua reported that Xu said: “The Chinese Basketball Association has announced that its league will start on June 20, and if everything goes well, the CSL will resume in July.”

Xu added that the season would involve teams being gathered in two cities to play a tournament. Xinhua said both the CSL and the CBA planned to play their seasons in two stages – a round-robin followed by a knock-out.

Doubt surrounds the return of the CSL after the Covid-19 interruption. The league has not yet begun its 2020 season, which was originally scheduled to start in February. It has had several plans to restart rejected by Chinese authorities.

Japan Today reported that Xu said two Formula One races in Shanghai this year had been “proposed by the F1 management company”. He added: “We are still communicating with F1 to see if there is any possibility of hosting two races in Shanghai, but there is no final decision yet…Of course, we should see how the virus is being controlled.”

Formula One’s 2020 season is to begin on July 3 with the Austrian Grand Prix. It has not yet confirmed any races outside Europe this season. Last week, the 2020 races in Singapore, Japan, and Azerbaijan were cancelled.

Questions have been raised over the return of sport in China with news late last week of a fresh Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing. Parts of the city have been placed under lockdown in response. Prior to this, Beijing had made big strides towards returning to normal life, removing many of the movement restrictions and social distancing measures imposed as a result of the pandemic.

Xinhua has also reported that Chinese third division football team Lhasa Chengtou Football Club, the Tibet region’s only professional team, has been dissolved and will not participate in any matches in the coming season. The reason for the dissolution is a disagreement between the club and the Chinese Football Association on the location of home matches.

Lhasa Chengtou entered CFA League 2 last season. It has been seeking to move to a home ground in the Tibet region, but the CFA has resisted the move because of the altitude – all available pitches are above 3,000m. The club recently played two games in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, at an altitude of 3,650m. Referees had to suspend play every 15 minutes to let players breathe bottled oxygen.