Shanghai (China)- After breaking the market with millionaire signings and unprecedented salaries, Chinese football monopolized all the covers. Five years later, history has changed so much that the reigning Super League champion has not been able to register for next season due to financial problems.
The alarms went off in China at the end of February when the team that won the league in 2020, Jiangsu Suning, announced that it was suspending its operations as it was unable to cope with the debt problems that prevented it from paying part of the salaries to its players during the Bell.
The coach, the Romanian Olaroiu, and his biggest star, the Brazilian Teixeira, had already left the ship after the title due to defaults.
Its until now owner, the Suning conglomerate, has been forced to sell 23% of the shares to obtain liquidity, although its founder has already warned that they would cut the tap on expenses not related to its main business, that of distribution.
These plans have not only meant that the now-named Jiangsu FC is on the brink of demise – barely two years after it was supposedly on the verge of signing Gareth Bale – if it does not find a short-term buyer, but they have also had an echo in Italy, since Inter Milan is controlled by that company.
And in England, the Premier League ended up canceling a multi-million dollar broadcasting contract with Suning subsidiary PPTV after it failed to meet agreed payments.
A MATTER OF POLICY
According to the local press, Jiangsu -which in recent years had Ramires or Miranda among its ranks and Fabio Capello on its bench- is for sale for one yuan, but whoever gets it will have to take over the debt , which would mean an outlay of more than 60 million euros in the first season alone.
“The fact that no one wants to take over the club is not a very good sign for the future of Chinese football,” warns Cameron Wilson, founder of the Chinese soccer portal Wild East Football.
The analyst explains to Efe that the appearance at the last minute of a buyer is still “a possibility” because the situation is “too ridiculous even by Chinese football standards”, but “time is running out.”
“It is one of the worst things that have happened in the history of Chinese football,” he laments.
How has Chinese soccer managed to get into this situation just five years after the government announced a plan to become a world football superpower by 2050?
“I suspect that there has been some political change, and that someone has said that we have to go down a couple of gears in the football project,” says Wilson, who recalls that the plan “made everyone believe that it was a great opportunity” especially big companies, who thought they could “get political favors by investing in football.”
Asked about the influence of the coronavirus, the Scotsman dismisses it completely: “The clubs did not earn money before anyway, they cannot survive without a company that pays the bills behind.”
In his opinion, China wanted international recognition, but the lack of progress in local football- reflected in the team’s recent failures – would have made the authorities start to be ashamed of the excessive spending on transfers and salaries.
In fact, in the last two years the CFA, the national federation, has announced successive reforms to prevent clubs from continuing to spend millions on international stars, considering it totally unsustainable.
“CHINA IS GOING FATAL”
The Jiangsu is not the only case: last year, Tianjin Quanjian, a team that Pato, Luís Fabiano or Witsel passed through, disappeared after cutting ties with their sponsor due to a judicial scandal, and this year many teams are surviving thanks to state investments.
And that’s only in the Super League: in the second and third divisions, more than a dozen teams were expelled last year for failing to meet financial requirements. And more clubs will end up disappearing, according to Wilson.
The expert considers that the “extraordinary” level of political interference in football has had a lot to do with this decline: “The football people are either not the ones who make the decisions or they cannot make them because they always have to take politics into account. With soccer people at the helm, we wouldn’t see a fraction of all this ridiculousness. “
But for now, in Chinese football “everything can change from one moment to the next” according to the will of someone powerful: “And then all the plans have to change, and all the billions that have been spent have suddenly been squandered. “.
The founder of Wild East Football believes that the authorities did not understand how difficult his objectives were: “They started to throw money, but it was not that there was a plan. China thought that building football is like building bridges or railways.”
Although it is still difficult to predict what will happen to soccer in China, one thing is clear: “They are being fatal.”
Wilson, who has been following soccer in the Asian country for two decades, no longer even believes that it will be possible to make the team one of the best in the world by 2050, as Beijing wanted.
Nor that the Drogba, Mascherano, Oscar, Hulk, Lavezzi, Carrasco, Pato, Anelka or Ramires continue to want to take their careers to the Super League: “I don’t think we’ll see that type of player coming to China again until the finances (clubs) are more rational. And it will take a long time. We are talking about 20 years.”
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