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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

All you need to know about the Chinese Super League

What are the rules for locals vs foreign imports on CSL football clubs?

Each team is allowed to register a maximum of 5 foreign players, known as the 4+1 policy. 4 players from outside Asia and 1 more from teams competing in the Asian Football Confederation. However, only 3+1 can be on the pitch during a CSL match. Meanwhile, the goalkeeper has to be Chinese – there’s a huge demand for Chinese GKs leading to inflated values.

Why are Brazilians being targeted as transfers for the CSL?

Several reasons for them being targeted since this is not a recent trend: In 1993, China sent 22 youth players (under 18) to São Paulo, Brazil, for a training regime (around 1 year). These players later became a core part of the 2002 national team at the World Cup. The most notable player was Li Tie, who made his Premier League debut with Everton. The relative cost (up to now) of signing a Brazilian player has led to an increase in this practice, especially when signing from their domestic league. The success of Brazilian players and coaches in CSL has further pushed the demand, with the Brazilian Luis Scolari managing Guangzhou Evergrande to win the CSL and Asian Champions League last season, as well as Ricardo Goulart from Evergrande winning the CSL MVP award.

Have they been able to integrate both culturally and on the pitch?

It’s been much easier on the pitch, as they’re the focal point of the team, everything is built around them. Meanwhile, the growing number of Brazilian coaches and managers (currently 3) also have helped them to integrate. However, off the pitch is much different, it’s believed that some don’t train with the main squad and struggle to adapt to the China lifestyle.

Why do basketball players integrate into the CBA better than football players in the CSL?

The number of players in basketball makes a difference, as 1 star player in a CBA team can make a huge impact, compared to 1 player in a CSL team of 11. There’s a cultural element also as Chinese people accept US players more than the Brazilian culture, with the language being an important advantage. Darko Matic, currently of Liaoning Hongyun, is an equivalent to Stephon Marbury although he doesn’t have as much influence. He has been in China for around 10 years, integrated into the Chinese culture and even learn the language.

What is fuelling the spending boom in the CSL transfer market, and why now?

Again several factors have led to the boom: The main reason is the change in government thinking and policy: football will help shape China’s economic growth in the next 20 years with Xi Jinping announcing his desire to host and win the World Cup and grow this industry. Many companies have taken this as a sign to invest in sport and football to earn the support of the government. Several teams have recently been taken over/invested in by the wealthiest companies in China (Alibaba & Guangzhou Evergrande, LeTV & Beijing Guoan, Suning & Jiangsu Suning) and with it, you get additional revenue and spending opportunities. Additionally, Ti’ao Power recently spent 8 billion RMB to secure the broadcasting rights for the CSL over the next 5 years, far higher than the 80 million RMB spent in 2008. Attendance is actually not that low – it’s the 6th most watched league in the world with average attendance over 20,000. There will be a growing increase in ticket prices as club’s look to improve revenue channels.

Are the same Chinese groups who have invested in overseas clubs the ones fuelling the domestic spending boom?

At the moment, there isn’t any crossover (at least in the public eye). Wangda Group invested in order to buy a 20% stake in Atletico Madrid, yet has announced they will not be investing in the CSL. It’s very likely though that there is a lot of spending under the table and indirectly, no one yet has made any announcements. We are keeping an eye on the City Group, with China Media Capital buying a 13% stake.

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