Chinese Super League to return on July 25 after five-month hiatus
Published: Jul 01, 2020 02:42 PM

Players of Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda take part in a training session on Tuesday in Tianjin. Photo: VCG

The 2020 season of the Chinese Super League (CSL) is scheduled to start on July 25, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced on Wednesday, with the games to be played in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province and Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

"To satisfy people's eager anticipation for the restoration of the CSL, the CFA decided that the 2020 CSL will kick-start on July 25 in Suzhou and Dalian," the CFA said in a statement on Wednesday, along with newly released posters showing the slogan "To inspire millions of hearts."

The CFA will do its utmost to ensure the safety of the games and strictly abide by national epidemic prevention requirements, it said. 

The league was originally to start on February 22 but was delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.

With several European football leagues having resumed since May, some football fans are questioning why China, a country which has a better handle on the epidemic than some European countries, has taken a longer time to restart the sport.

Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based football pundit, believes that difference in geography between China and other European countries is the reason for the delay.

"China is quite big, and if teams are playing away games that will lead to long flights, that would put them at risk for contracting the virus as the epidemic is not completely over yet," Wang told the Global Times. 

"But for European teams, they just need to travel a few hours by bus to play an away game." 

He said that if the CSL simply copied the European leagues, it would inevitably hit bumps as China is a far more populous country than European states.

Traditionally the CSL season runs from early March to October/November. However, as the CFA has vowed not to extend the season to next year, it seems that there is not enough time remaining to have a regular season as is usual. 

While details of a new format league have yet to be unveiled, Chinese media outlets have reported that the league will be held in separate groups, with teams to play round robin games. The CFA is expected to unveil the specific rules next week.

The opening game of the season is also reportedly to feature Wuhan Zall, a team based in Wuhan, where the coronavirus epidemic first emerged at the end of 2019. They finished sixth in the 16-team league last season. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the CFA issued a notice offering two new transfer windows to clubs for the season.

The first will run from Thursday to July 29, with each side able to hire at most five new members. The second transfer window will start in September. 

Players from the 15 newly defunct football clubs, most of which went under bankruptcy due to the financial impact of the coronavirus epidemic, including former CSL side Tianjin Tianhai, will not be held to these transfer restrictions. Hiring them will not count against the five-man quota.

To date, only one CSL player has tested positive for coronavirus - Shangdong Luneng's Belgium star midfielder Marouane Fellaini in March 22, after traveling back to China for the new season. He was discharged from the hospital after nearly a month.

The CSL is not the first domestic sports league to return to competition, as the basketball league CBA resumed on June 20, also in two cities. The CBA games, however, are being played in empty stadiums.