January 26 – In a further sign of the collapse of China’s domestic game, Wuhan Yangtze, once a Super League outfit, has folded, months after a points deduction for failing to pay player salaries.
In a statement, the club said that it won’t register to play in the second division for the 2023 season after finishing 16th out of 18 clubs in the Chinese Super League in the 2022 season, but the club has promised to settle outstanding payments to staff.
“The club has been representing the city of Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province in the Chinese professional football leagues for 11 consecutive seasons since 2012 in a bid to keep developing the sport,’” said the club.
In 2011, the Zall Group acquired the Wuhan club and reportedly invested $440 million, but that has not been enough to prevent the club from ceasing operations.
It is another indication of how Chinese clubs have been struggling with several other clubs across the top two divisions having been punished with points deductions for failing to pay salaries. Earlier this year Chongqing Liangjiang had to pull out of the league because of financial problems and Super League champions Jiangsu FC were closed before the start of new season after a cost-cutting exercise by owner Suning, which also has Inter Milan in their portfolio.
Over the last decade, China has bet big on football, with owners signing up big stars from Europe and South America. Their financial clout had begun to propel the domestic game to the next level, but the Covid-19 pandemic burst the bubble. At the same time government became concerned at the large amounts being spent on acquiring and paying players, as well as overseas investments in clubs.
Fan interest and broadcast revenues fell and in an overheated market, owners also struggled in the background with a stagnating economy, rendering investment in football secondary as well as a politically hot issue.
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