China’s new foreign player rules leaves clubs in a quandry


As China has placed curbs on foreign players being bought for its football league, some clubs who had contracted with the players have now been left high and dry.
Even as the winter transfer window is underway Chinese Football Association (CFA) decided that teams will be allowed to field only three foreign players during a match. This is against five foreign players, which included four of any nationality and one of any Asian nation.

The change in rules has put a team like Shanghai FC, owned by Shanghai International Port Group or SIPG, in some disarray. They have seven players on their rolls including €55.8 million they paid for Hulk and €18.5 million for Elkeson, Ivory Coast winger Jean Kouassi, Koreans Kim Ju-young and Kim Young-gwon, Brazilian Oscar and Uzbekistan’s Odil Ahmedov complete the list.

That is not the only regulation that has been altered. Another change in regulation asks clubs to field two Chinese under-23 players for every game, one in the starting XI, leading to speculation that a new ‘bubble’ is in the market for these young players.

According to a statement from the CFA, the move was being made “in order to carry out the requirements of the ‘Overall Plan for Reform and Development of Chinese Football.”

CFA had earlier been speaking with clubs on the issue of limiting the number of foreigners, but the shock announcement caught the clubs by surprise since it is being seen as tougher than expected. At the end of the league last year, CFA had told clubs that one player from the foreign quota could be cut.

Reports suggest that the moves by Tianjin club to attract world football’s biggest stars including including Costa, Karim Benzema, Radamel Falcao, Raul Jimenez and Edinson Cavani may have been called up after the change in rules were announced.


Chinese football clubs have been on a player acquisition spree around the world over the last few months. The country has dreams of being a football power and has also stared the world’s biggest football academy.