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Financial free-fall for Chinese champs Jiangsu FC

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Jiangsu Suning players and staff members celebrate after their team defeated Guangzhou Evergrande to win the Chinese Super League football championship in Suzhou of China’s eastern Jiangsu province. AFP

Financial free-fall for Chinese champs Jiangsu FC

The “shocking” collapse of champions Jiangsu FC is a watershed for Chinese football that should prompt a rethink from top to bottom, state media said.

Jiangsu, who are owned by the conglomerate Suning – which also owns Italy’s Inter Milan – said Sunday they will “cease operations”, three months after winning the Chinese Super League for the first time.

The announcement underlines the financial problems coursing through the league that could also see rival side Tianjin Tigers fold this week.

It also highlights the declining fortunes of a league that repeatedly smashed the Asian transfer record just a few years ago, attracting a number of foreign stars. Many have since left.

“It seems incredible and shocking, but it feels like the dust has now settled,” state-run Xinhua news agency said following the announcement by Jiangsu, who have not yet dissolved and are seeking a financial lifeline.

Xinhua said that 16 teams across three tiers of Chinese professional football folded in 2020.

The Super League gained a reputation for luring star players with hefty wages and exorbitant transfer fees – Shanghai SIPG signed Oscar from Chelsea in 2017 for an Asian-record 60 million euros.

But the Chinese Football Association has since brought in a raft of measures to cool spending, including a 100 per cent transfer tax and salary caps.

The CFA said on Monday it was “sorry to hear” about Jiangsu but respected the club’s decision, and vowed to plough on with its attempts to make China a leading football power.

However, times are tough for Chinese clubs, where money began to dry up even before the coronavirus pandemic.

“The most important thing at the moment is to reload and start again, rather than being lost in confusion or remorse,” said Xinhua.

“To some extent it is a good thing that the bubble has burst earlier [than expected],” it added.

“Chinese professional football has ushered in its first ‘watershed’ after its high-speed, wild growth.

“Respect the laws of football, respect the laws of the market, adhere to youth training and work for the long term.”

Beijing Youth Daily said the implosion of Jiangsu, who are based in the eastern city of Nanjing, was an opportunity for renewal.

“Where does Chinese football go from here?” it asked.

“Experts say that to solve the predicament of Chinese football it must be overthrown and reconstructed.

“Chinese football, the promotion of it and youth training all need to be reassessed.”

The new season, which will almost certainly be shorn of Jiangsu and Tianjin, is expected to start in April but there is no definite date because of coronavirus uncertainty.

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