Chinese football tax ends world-beating transfer boom

Feb 23, 2018
From Lionel Messi to Wayne Rooney, many star players were linked with a big-money move to the Chinese Super League after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for a football revolution prompted a surge in investment by local tycoons. But the bad news for players, and the agents who stoke such speculation to drive up wages, is that the CSL’s world-beating transfer boom is over for now after the introduction of restrictions on the import of footballers slowed the flood of spending to a trickle. Amid a wider crackdown on capital outflows, China’s government-controlled football association brought in a 100 per cent tax on transfers of more than Rmb45m ($7m) last summer. It has since implemented further curbs on the use of foreign footballers in China’s premier league to help the development of local players. “In the short term, the new regulations are going to impair, to a degree, the quality of the game,” says Hou Po, a partner at Deloitte, the consultancy, who advises the CSL in China. “So investors are a little bit edgy.” Backed by billionaires including Jack Ma, Alibaba’s chairman, CSL clubs spent more on hiring than any other league in the previous two winter transfer windows, when players are allowed to switch teams, importing the likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar and Alexandre Pato. In the window that closes at the end of the month in China, Chinese clubs have spent $86m, down from $500m in the previous year and well behind the $600m from clubs in England’s Premier League, the world’s richest football competition. The biggest name to move to China this window is Javier Mascherano, 33, a former Barcelona and Liverpool midfielder at the tail end of his career, who joined Hebei China Fortune for a fee just below the $7m tax threshold.

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