Chinese Super League implements rule to limit foreign players

By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London

There has been substantial discussion and commentary in the press, not only in the United Kingdom, but throughout Europe, about the threat of the financial strength of the teams in the Chinese Super League.

In January 2017, Brazilian footballer, Oscar, moved from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG for a reported £60 million. Oscar’s salary is reported to be in the region of £350,000.00 per week, a three-fold increase on what he was reportedly earning at Chelsea. Oscar is not the only high-profile footballer to move to the Chinese Super League. Former Manchester United and Manchester City forward, Carlos Tevez, moved to Shanghai Shenua on a reported salary of £615,000 per week.

It is without question that the teams in the Chinese Super League have paid hugely inflated prices in order to tempt high-profile footballers to move to play in China. The Chinese Football Association and the Chinese Government want to turn China into a global force in world football and see attracting high-profile foreign footballers as one way of increasing the popularity of football in China.

However, leading football clubs throughout Europe will be pleased to read that the Chinese Football Association has implemented a rule to limit the number of foreign footballers who can appear in a team’s match day squad from four to three players. Each team’s starting line-up must also include at least two Chinese players under the age of 23.

The rule change has been implemented to allow local talent the opportunity to progress and to address irrational investments by clubs on salaries and transfer fees.

The current Chinese Super League transfer window is open until 28 February 2017 and it will be interesting to see whether any of the teams decide to fill their foreign quotas before the transfer window closes. The China Football Association could, in the future, decide to increase the quota, but for the moment the threat to European clubs is on hold.