Economic woes are taking a toll on China’s professional football clubs, with 11 being disqualified for failing to pay wages and five closing shop on their terms, including last season’s Chinese Super League side Tianjin Tianhai.
Low attendance and gaudy contracts for overseas signings were already weighing heavily on the industry, even before the coronavirus outbreak forced it into total shutdown.
The suspended clubs include four from the second-division and seven from the third-division. The five others have been struggling with financial woes and decided to disband on their own.
READ| Chinese Super League: Tianjin Tianhai folds amid bankruptcy
Tianjin Tianhai withdrew on May 12 amid heavy debts, only three seasons after former World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro guided it into the Asian Champions League. That came after owner and founder of the Quanjian group, Shu Yuhui, was arrested on corruption charges.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Chinese Football Association head Chen Xuyuan as saying “clubs can barely achieve sustainable development. The owners have invested a lot but earn little back.”
In an announcement on Saturday, the CFA said it hoped clubs could “pay attention to long-term planning and rational management” and protect the interests of players, coaches and staff.
READ| China football draws up coronavirus battle plan
The Chinese Super League will continue to comprise 16 teams, with formerly relegated Shenzhen FC promoted to take Tiajin’s place. It remains unclear when the postponed 2020 season will restart.
Chinese president and head of the ruling Communist Party has called for turning China into a football superpower, but with few results. The national team is currently ranked 76 by FIFA among all countries, sandwiched between the much smaller and poorer countries of Bolivia and Uganda.