Opportunity to breathe new life into Chinese soccer

2021-03-02 12:08:15

Fans hold a banner with the words "Jiangsu Suning is the winner" in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, Nov 12, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua] Three months after it won the Chinese Super League championship, the top soccer league in China, the Jiangsu Suning Football Club issued a statement on Sunday saying it was stopping operations from that day on. If no investor steps in to rescue the club, the defending champion will probably not figure in the new season that is starting soon. While many, particularly the club's fans, find the news heartbreaking, they would accept the fact, as it is no secret that almost all CSL clubs are reeling under heavy debts-the better a club performs, mostly by buying expensive foreign players or naturalizing them, the more difficult their financial condition becomes-and it is not surprising at all that the club faced bankruptcy so soon after reaching the top. By the end of the third quarter of 2020, Suning E-commerce, the football club's parent company, had liabilities amounting to 109.97 billion yuan ($17.01 billion). It is natural that it decided to stop financing the soccer club that has run up debts reaching 500 million yuan, mostly from paying salaries and bonuses to its players and coaches. After the Guangzhou Evergrande, a soccer club funded by a real estate company, lifted the AFC Champions League in 2013, almost all CSL clubs began investing heavily in the game, believing it was worthwhile investment that was recoverable with profits through other channels. However, over the past eight years, the investors have spent more money purchasing foreign players and employing foreign coaches than in training the youth. Although Chinese clubs have performed better in Asia, thanks to the presence of foreign players, the Chinese players have fallen behind their Asian counterparts, even though they earn more now, and the Chinese soccer's FIFA world ranking has dropped from around 50 to around 90. According to the Chinese Football Association, the Chinese clubs' total investment is more than three times that of Japanese clubs and more than 10 times that of the clubs in the Republic of Korea, and the average income of CSL players is 5.8 times that of players in the J League of Japan, and 11.7 times that of players in the ROK's K League. It is hoped that the "death" of the champion club can breathe new life into Chinese soccer by prompting all stakeholders to respect the law of the sport.