Chinese Super League Champions Disbanded
Article originally found at Inside World Football
The Chinese Super League, which for the last few years has been flexing its financial muscle to attract world stars in the latter stages of their careers, has been stunned by reigning champions Jiangsu FC announcing they are ceasing operations with immediate effect.
Just three months after winning their first title, the Nanjing-based club, owned by retail giant Suning that also holds a majority stake in Italian league leaders Inter Milan, said that it hoped that a new backer could be found after the company pulled out.
“Even though we are reluctant to part with the players who have won us the highest honours, and fans who have shared solidarity with the club, we have to regretfully make an announcement,” a Jiangsu FC statement said.
“From today, Jiangsu Football Club ceases the operation of its teams.”
Suning, which was formally known as Jiangsu Suning before changing names to meet new Chinese Football Association regulations, had reportedly tried for six months to sell Jiangsu, which has debts estimated to be around $90 million. Also folding are Jiangsu’s successful women’s team and various youth teams.
On February 19, Suning chairman Zhang Jindong had ordered the group’s non-retail businesses to begin, as far as possible, the closing down of operations.
Xinhua, the state news agency, reported the club owed players wages and title-winning bonuses and that the club’s coach Cosmin Olaroiu and Brazilian star player Alex Teixeira had already left.
China’s Super League has become one of the biggest-spending leagues in the world over the past decade, gaining a reputation for luring star players with hefty wages and exorbitant transfer fees.
Star players including Hulk, Oscar and Paulinho arrived in the country along with World Cup winning coaches Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe-Scolari.
But the Chinese Football Association has since brought in a raft of measures to cool spending, including a 100% transfer tax and salary caps.
The collapse of Jiangsu, which local reports said could soon be followed by that of rivals Tianjin Tigers, underlines the extent to which Chinese football at elite level has been punching above its weight and represents considerable embarrassment for football-supporting Chinese president Xi Jinping in terms of his vision for the domestic game as well as its international status.
“It seems incredible and shocking, but it feels like the dust has now settled,” Xinhua said following the announcement by Jiangsu, adding that 16 teams across three tiers of Chinese football folded in 2020.
In 2016, Suning obtained a 70% stake in Inter Milan for €270 million. Suning was also involved in broadcaster PPTV and its collapsed three-year television contract with the English Premier League. With Suning pivoting away from the sports business, the status of the 70% stake in Inter Milan will likely be the next shareholder issue to be resolved.
In an official statement the Chinese Football Association said it regretted the suspension of operations, “but respects the club’s choice.”
“Jiangsu football has a very good history of development. After Suning Group operated the Jiangsu Football Club in 2015, it has made active efforts for the development of football. The Chinese Football Association would like to express its gratitude!”said the statement.
“The Chinese Football Association will continue to work hard to implement the “China Football Reform and Development Overall Plan”, continue to promote football reform, strengthen various basic football work with youth football as the main content, improve the professional league system, and better unite the national football forces. Work hard for the progress of Chinese football!”