China begins to clean up its football

SHANGHAI • China is removing the hand of government from the country's football governing body and will also end its state funding, a major step in its plan to overhaul the corruption-tainted sport and raise the level of play.

The ministry-level General Administration of Sport announced that it was removing its grip on the Chinese Football Association (CFA) by moving government officials out and turning the body into a "full-fledged" non-governmental organisation, the China Daily reported.

Officials from the administration currently run the CFA.

The move is part of a football reform plan issued by the Chinese State Council in March and backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, a football fan who is pushing for the country to host the World Cup Finals one day.

Despite enjoying widespread popularity in China, the sport has been riddled with scandal and is ridiculed as a source of national shame.

The men's national team are ranked a lowly 79th in the Fifa world rankings.

"Reshuffling CFA management is a priority to carry on overall soccer reform, which will see the game's management run independently without interference from administrative powers," said Cai Zhenhua, CFA president and deputy director of the sport administration.

Government officials involved in the CFA, including Cai, would have to choose either to work for the body full-time or withdraw from it.

China Daily added that, according to a revised CFA constitution, the new leadership would be elected at its 47-member congress at the end of the year, when the association's new organisational structure would be established.

The association would stop receiving government funding and "stand on its own feet financially through independent marketing initiatives".

It will also make public its financial records and submit to annual third-party audits.

Decision-making powers would be handed back to the domestic league council, which was formed by 16 Chinese Super League club shareholders in 2005.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'China begins to clean up its football'. Print Edition | Subscribe