Tianhai's dissolution shows lavish spending creates new problems in football

By Lu Wenao Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/12 17:45:06

Former Tianjin Quanjian player Axel Witsel of Belgium Photo: IC

China's Tianjin Tianhai football club announced on Tuesday that the team was disbanded effective immediately, a move that comes after a four-month-long wait to determine whether the club would be approved entry to the new Chinese Super League (CSL) season.

The club was previously owned by the Quanjian Group, whose chief Shu Yuhui was an adamant football fan. Shu introduced world-renowned football players to the club, including Belgium's World Cup key player Axel Witsel and Brazilian ace Alexandre Pato. 

Hosting such high-profile stars in a less competitive league than Europe's top-flights meant an increase in spending, but Quanjian's money came from the wrong direction - the group was accused of illegal marketing and false advertisement in December 2018. 

Another high-profile purchase for the club was the signing of goal keeper Zhang Lu from Jiangsu Suning in 2016 in a 70 million yuan ($9.87 million) deal, a record-setting transfer for a domestic player at that time. 

After Shu and other top-brass of the club were arrested, the local football association took over the club and later renamed it Tianhai in 2019. 

Tianhai, the quarterfinalists of the 2018 season's Asian Champions League, survived CSL relegation last season when troubled with the financial crisis. 

The club issued a controversial "0 yuan transfer" of the club at the beginning of March, but few companies expressed a willingness to take over. The only interested party was the Vantone Group, most likely due to the massive debt the club owed it because of the actions of the Quanjian Group. 

Meanwhile, discussions between Tianhai and Vantone collapsed, leading to the debt-ridden team having no financial support. Players vowed to waive their annual salary this year to keep the team alive, but the proposal was rejected by the Chinese Football Association (CFA).

The club's dissolution will deal a huge blow to the resumption of the league, which has been on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The team's disbandment also means the players, including China international Yang Xu who has been summoned to a national team training session in May, will have to seek a new club to play with, at a time the CSL teams have already started preparing to resume the season. 

If the Tianhai players failed to secure new homes, they have to face a serious consequence - they will not have a place to play for at least a year. 

To curb the rocketing spending among CSL clubs, the CFA has introduced salary caps to the top flight and recommended salary cuts during the epidemic. 

As CFA President Chen Xuyuan pointed out, while most Chinese football clubs have been spending massively, almost none recorded a profit last season. 

It is time to think about whether we need to have more high-paying stars to make the league games "look better" in the short-term or a healthy league that can cultivate a more productive football powerhouse.

Posted in: SOCCER

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