China’s crumbling clubs exposed by weak foundations

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These days it’s hard to imagine that a Chinese club could one day boast a century-long history like European giants such as Barcelona or Liverpool.

China’s crumbling clubs exposed by weak foundations

Sure, that may be an unfair comparison to make, given that the professionalization of Chinese soccer only began in the early 1990s.

However, the current financial clouds hanging over the domestic game certainly do not inspire confidence.

Operating without sustainable business models and with an over-reliance on investment, many clubs’ early success ultimately proves to be a flash in the pan.

Worse still, some sink without a trace to leave behind not much more than memories and regrets.

The extent of Chinese soccer’s monetary misery, which has been exacerbated by the sport’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was laid bare on Saturday when the Chinese Football Association announced that 16 clubs across the top three divisions will not compete in the pro ranks next season due to financial problems.

According to the CFA, 11 clubs have been have been thrown out of the leagues for next season due to wage arrears. They are: Guangdong Southern Tigers, Sichuan Longfor, Liaoning Hongyun, Shanghai Shenxin, Yinchuan Helanshan, Dalian Chanjoy, Fujian Tianxin, Yanbian Beiguo, Jilin Baijia, Nanjing Shaye and Baoding Rongda.

Another five clubs have voluntarily quit the leagues due to money troubles. They are Shenzhen Pengcheng, Hangzhou Wuyue Qiantang, Heze Caozhou, Nanjing Balanta and top-tier Tianjin Tianhai.

The fall of the storied Liaoning Hongyun has been particularly sad to see.

The 67-year-old club won the Jia-A league, which was the predecessor to the Chinese Super League, six times from 1987 to 1993.

Despite being surpassed by new giants of the game such as Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG, Liaoning still holds a special place in fans’ hearts.

The club briefly revived its glory days in 2011 when it managed a third-place finish in the CSL.

However, relegation to the second-tier China League One in 2017 signaled the start of a downward spiral for the club that has ultimately resulted in an end, at least temporarily, to its days in the pro ranks.

“All our efforts have to end, and we announce that we are quitting the Chinese professional leagues,” read a Liaoning statement on Sunday.

“Despite having to leave, the spirit of our club will endure. We believe there will be newcomers to inherit our tradition and restore the glory.”

The demise of Tianjin Tianhai earlier this month was another depressing episode for the domestic game.

Tianhai had once appeared to be on the cusp of becoming a permanent fixture among the CSL’s elite when in 2017 it qualified for the AFC Champions League, with Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro as head coach and world-class players such as Axel Witsel and Alexandre Pato on its payroll.

However, both Tianhai and Liaoning’s weak financial foundations have been exposed during soccer’s shutdown and both their houses have come tumbling down as a result.

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Investors often run scared when poor results on the pitch or unforeseen crises such as the coronavirus outbreak suddenly stall the good times. Without sufficient funds, daily operations become an issue, let alone importing big-name players or investing in youth training.

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Source : CGTN | Photocredit : Google

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