51 days to go to the AFC Asian Cup, UAE 2019

John Yan: China breaks its reform mould 改革,挑战的开始

This could be the beginning of a new era for football in China, this could also be a new chapter in the history of football the sport. On March 16, the first Monday after the National Congress, the central government issued this document: The Overall Reform Plan For Football In China. It would be hard for us to find out a similar precedent that the national council would issue a formal policy, which covers up to 50 different issues in the football industry, and redeemed future football development in China with the key word REFORM.

The president, Mr. Xi Jinping loves football, which is no secret at all, but this reform originating from the highest echelon of the political structure in China, is still something quite shocking. It could be a trailblazing start to overturn the negative image of football in China.

The Overall plan is divided into three time phases, the short term, the middle term and the long term, with specified targets. Each time phase could be considered as a five-year plan, which fits the Soviet style of economic and social development planning. The strategic target of long term should be reached in about 15 to 20 years.

For the short term target, how to restructure football management would be key, and the document made it very clear that the CFA should be disconnected from the government, and its role should be de-administrated. This could make the CFA meet the FIFA principals finally, because it used to be and is currently a part of the National Sport Administration.

To enlarge the participation rate of youth in football, attract more kids into football, as well as provide more venues for amateur football, is incorporated into the middle term.

And for the long term target, the national team qualified for the World Cup finals, and China hosting a World Cup, are targets to be made.

Media in China labeled this document as the State 50 points, as it covered as many aspects of football as possible. However, it takes a lot of thinking and discussing and even arguing, to have a better understanding of it. For the hot issue is the CFA’s reform itself, it means that the central government has long lost its confidence in the CFA – but what kind of change we expect from the future CFA? Who will be the future head of CFA? And through what kind of method could we select the future president and the whole administrative team?

The document even covered some details in football, like the unbalanced salary situation in the China Super League, and renaming all clubs, moving the sponsor’s title from club names. These are principals or actual executive orders China football must take? It remains to be seen.

There are no right answers at the moment, as there are no past experiences to learn from. The department of education has been following up football reform quite warmly in recent years, declaring that China would have 20,000 football ‘special schools’, in 5 year time. This is simply bragging, as there would not be even 20,000 well trained and qualified youth development football coaches in China in 5 years time.

Over-enthusiastic or over-state the speed of football growth, because of the issuing of this document, would be very harmful for the sport, but the politicians and investors can not wait, they are pushing forward on every front.

Maybe China football could benefit from this short term frenzy, however, the success of this Overall Reform planning, will take time to evaluate.

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com.

改革,挑战的开始

三段时间步骤的设计,在中国足球全面改革方案中罗列,如同三个五年计划,近中远期目标相当清晰,这意味着对于改革进程的观察、对改革成果的检验,整体时长概念应该在十五年到二十年间。

这样的时长和步骤分配,符合足球发展的基本规律,十年育人,所以在中期规划里,才会将壮大足球的青少年基础作为目标。两代人的培育和进步,才可能期待在国家队层面上竞技成绩的进步,所以在远期规划里,才会有对世界杯成绩的明确期望。

然而对于覆盖面积广、全景式的足球全面改革方案,解读上就会产生各种不同的理解,未来执行层面上,遭遇的挑战和问题势必更多,执行者会是谁,执行过程如何进行协调和监督,都是对整个足球管理体系的考验,所以近期规划,是厘清理顺中国足球的管理体系,并且提出了相应的解决方案:中国足协从体育总局脱钩,去行政化,淡化其政府职能部门的色彩,并且尽可能广博地吸纳不同政府部门、社会机构的力量,在最大资源层面上推动足球进步。

虽然在一些具体事项,例如职业联赛的薪资,全面改革方案有一些细节性的涉及,但整体上,方案更是一种基本方向和原则性的工作安排,毕竟一个改革方案,不可能对改革过程中将可能遭遇的各种变数全部预估清楚,大部分改革工作,都还是需要通过实践操作去一点点克服。能否预想到的一些挑战,从近期规划中就能看到:如何真正让中国足协和国家体育总局脱钩?脱钩之后的中国足协将如何组成、将扮演怎样的角色?中国足协不可能作为单一机构,去承担足球全面改革和未来足球发展任务,那么未来部际联席会议,又将由谁来主导和协调?

这些潜在的问题,可以预见,却不可能给出明确答案,因为不去试错,就不可能找到更好的解决方案,这样的改革,在中国体育乃至中国社会,都缺乏先例。和经济体制改革不同,足球改革不是优化生产关系和释放生产力,全面改革在很大层面上,是需要重新架构中国足球的整体架构,近期目标,是要从管理体系的顶层来进行重建。

中期规划的挑战,集中在足球基础的扩大和坚实化,可是教育部提出的三年建立两万所足球特色学校的目标,让人感觉不可思议——这是2014年就有了的说法,但3年时间,中国只怕连两万名足球青训教练都不可能培育出来,就这样提出两万所足球特色学校的目标,显得过于急切。改革的执行者,究竟是如何看待这种硬性指标、如何在工作当中保持长远眼光,而不急于短期数字堆砌来加强青少年足球推广,会是一个特别值得关注的方向。

矫枉过正的问题,也肯定会存在。有人预想着,由于校园足球在中央力推下,变得越来越重要,那是否会简单地将足球培训和常规教育相结合,以至于未来升学考级等过程中,足球都会变成一种必修课?夸张一点想象,如果未来高考都有足球科目要求的话,那么中国足球青少年人数增加,岂不就会引刃而解?

这种简单明了的解决方式,在我个人看来,和全面改革方案的原则相悖——中国足协都要去行政化,都要和体育总局脱钩,未来青少年培训怎么可以简如是简单地解决?在既不干涉青少年校园学业的同时,又能保证足球基础人群数量的迅速增加,会是一个极其需要改革执行者工作技巧和长远眼光的系统工程,稍微行差踏错,都可能出现摇号式推广的问题改革。

还有职业化足球与整体足球氛围的匹配,像职业俱乐部名称过度商业化的要求。将这些赞助商、投资商的名称,从俱乐部冠名中去掉,看上去只是形式的变更,实质涉及的伦理,应该是为二十年前中国足球职业化改革先天不足所犯下错误来修补——一个俱乐部的创立,首要意义在于代表其所在地区人群的意愿,聚众之乐。中国的足球俱乐部,都是一夜之间由体工大队足球队变幻大王旗改造而来,既没有服务社区人群的意识,二十多年来也一直在畸形职业化竞争中不断为生存而挣扎。变更俱乐部名称只是手段,目的,更应该是让足球回到社区、回到社会,找到真正能安身立命的本源。

十年树人,百年树木。方案的公布,只是一个开宗明义的启示。