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'Support for local players, healthy club budgets needed in CSL'

By Xinhua
'Support for local players, healthy club budgets needed in CSL'
In this Oct 28, 2016, file photo, China's newly appointed national football team coach Marcello Lippi speaks during a news conference at a hotel in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

BEIJING - China can introduce new rules and use methods to solve problems in the Chinese Super League (CSL) with regard to the marginalization of local players and out-of-control spending on famous foreign stars, said a spokesman of China's General Administration of Sports on Thursday.

But despite the questions surrounding recruitment practices, officials say that football in China remains on a generally positive development path

CSL clubs have attracted worldwide attention in recent years by spending big money on world-renowned foreign coaches like Marcello Lippi , Luiz Felipe Scolari, Manuel Pellegrini, Andre Villas Boas and Sven Goran Eriksson, along with star players like Carlos Tevez, Gervinho, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Oscar and Axel Witsel .

In addition, a significant amount of capital from China has been flowing into purchases of foreign football clubs like Nice in the French Ligue 1, Internazionale Milano of Italy's Serie A. The lavish spending of Chinese clubs has stunned world football powerhouses, leading to criticism from foreign clubs and coaches. The spending spree has also garnered criticism domestically; observers allege that an over-reliance on foreign players can only take chances away from native players.

But despite the questions surrounding recruitment practices, officials say that football in China remains on a generally positive development path. "The development of Chinese football has been generally positive since the start of the government-supported reform and development plan," said the spokesman.

When asked for view on the debate regarding foreign players and the possibility of restricting them in some way to create more chances for locals, the spokesman called for a balanced approach.

"We can make good use of the rules to make adjustments. We can use the rules as a kind of lever to find balance," he said.

'Support for local players, healthy club budgets needed in CSL'
Hangzhou Greentown’s Cahill (second left) vies for the ball with a player of Yanbian Fude during their match on July 3, 2016. (Photo / Xinhua)

"For example, we can set new calculation rules in the point system of our league to encourage the use of local players, and we can make minor changes in the point calculation method used in specific games. We can also make policies to require every team to start 1 or 2 young players (under 21, 22, or 23), or at least to bring them off the bench."

Under current rules, CSL teams can field 4 non-Asian foreign players during a single match, with a maximum of 3 on the pitch and another to replace one of these as a substitute, along with 1 from the Asian Football Confederation. But the Chinese Football Association (CFA) is trying to change the "4+1" policy to a "3+1" rule for the 2017 season.

The spokesman added that new measures are also needed to reign in the spending on foreign players and the resulting irrational salaries.

"We must control salaries to a reasonable level. We need to strengthen the audit and supervision job on the budget of the clubs," he said.

"We should mandate a unified accounting system among the clubs, and remove those with bad debts. Wage caps can be used, and new rules can be made to require the clubs that sign big names to invest a proportional amount of money in youth training. Also, there should be no room for contract cheats," the spokesman continued.

On the topic of youth training, the spokesman suggested three measures: increasing the amount of money invested in youth training and to provide better training for youth coaches, raising the quality and numbers of youth teams tied to professional clubs, and creating compensation plans for clubs that raise talented youngsters who are eventually signed by other clubs.

The spokesman added that the CFA should conduct its own research and implement these suggestions gradually in its bid to bolster football in China.

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