Blog#18 – All aboard the money train to China

We have all seen the headlines and have all smacked our heads on our keyboards afterwards. Hulk signs for Shanghai SIPG, Oscar also signs for Shanghai SIPG, Graziano Pelle signs for Shandong Luneng and Carlos Tevez signs for Shanghai Greenland.

So why do these players travel all the way to China to ply their trade, especially when some of them could have their pick of any club in the world? I have mentioned this time and time again and it’s becoming a pretty common theme in the modern era of football and it’s the money.

There seems to be no limit on what a Chinese based football club is willing to spend to land a star foreign player. They also seem to have an obsession with Brazillian players and although the transfer fees for the players are not the highest in the world, (the highest being the transfer of Oscar from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG for £54,000,000), the wages that the foreign players are paid, definitely are.

The average annual first team pay in the Chinese Super league, as per the Global Sports Salary Survey of 2018, is £799,212. This might not seem like a hell of a lot considering the English Premier Leagues average is £2,990,726, but China is ranked sixth overall in average player paid wages.

One of major issues with the CSL is the disproportionate way that the money is distributed in the league. The top 10% of earners account for 67% of the total wages, and I bet you can guess who the top 10% of earners are and it’s not the Chinese players that’s for sure.

The top 10 paid players in 2018, in terms of annual salary, were all foreign players with the aforementioned Oscar topping the charts with roughly £350,000 per week. The previous holder of the highest paid player in China was Carlos Tevez who has since left the CSL.  Tevez reportedly earned around £615,000 a week.

These silly amounts of money, which are being quite literally being thrown at players, has come under the lime light and the CFA (Chinese Football Association) have finally decided to take action. They realised the current situation is not sustainable in the long term.

The CFA have imposed caps on player performance bonuses, taxes on high player transfer payments, transparency in player and coach contracts and harsh penalties for tax evasion are just some of the measures being taken by the CSL to curb the ridiculous amounts of spending that is occurring.

Some of the penalties which have been put in place actually make sense, and will hopefully encourage more investment in developing Chinese domestic and international football. For example, transfer fees paid for a foreign player over the amount of £5,000,000 will be taxed 100%. The taxed amount will be put into a football development fund.

A harsher penalty is, if a football club is found to be evading tax, the offending player or coach will face a ban of between one and three years. Their clubs can and will be deducted points and in more severe cases, even kicked out the league.

Then why are foreign players still transferring to Chinese clubs if all these changes are being made? Let’s look at a recent example: Mousa Dembele, who has recently left Tottenham Hotspurs to join Gaungzhou R&F. His salary at Spurs was £80,000 per week, but is injury prone and has only made 13 appearances for Spurs this season. His salary details are yet to be shared by his new club, but it is said that he will receive a ‘significant hike in wages,’ which, for a 31 old who is prone to injury, is a fantastic deal.

Besides the above example, it would seem that the CFA are working hard to reduce the amount of foreign football players jumping on the money train to China. In the future, hopefully Chinese football will be known less for their money and more about the style of football they play. However, with their current international FIFA ranking at 76, all the way behind Belarus and just in front of Canada, they have a long way to go.

One would hope that for the sake of the youth, female and male domestic football players of China, the proposed changes help the Chinese game grow on a domestic and international level, and stop funding foreign player’s private jets, (yes, Hulk purchased his own private jet…).

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