Chinese football powerhouse Jiangsu FC have announced it will “cease operations” with immediate effect, just three months after winning the Chinese Super League title for the first time.
Nanjing-based Jiangsu, owned by retail giant Suning that also holds a majority stake in Italian league leaders Inter Milan, said on social media that it hoped that a new backer could be found after the company pulled out.
“Even though we are reluctant to part with the players who have won us the highest honours, and fans who have shared solidarity with the club, we have to regretfully make an announcement,” a Jiangsu FC statement said.
“From today, Jiangsu Football Club ceases the operation of its teams.”
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Suning had reportedly tried to sell Jiangsu, which has debts estimated to be around $90 million.
Jiangsu’s successful women’s team and various youth teams have also been forced to fold.
Earlier this month, Suning owner Zhang Jindong said the group would cut back on non-retail activities after a difficult year in which revenues had been hit by COVID-19.
“We will focus on retail business and close and cut down our businesses that are not connected to businesses,” he said.
According to Forbes, Jindong is worth an estimated $9.47 billion.
Lavish spending comes back to haunt Chinese football
The unravelling of Jiangsu, until recently known as Jiangsu Suning, could be followed in the coming days by the closure of fellow CSL side Tianjin Teda.
Club owner Teda has cut investment in the team it has owned since 1998 after the Chinese Football Association ruled this year that all team names must be free from corporate titles.
Last year, the city’s other club, Tianjin Tianhai, went bankrupt.
Chinese football has became one of the biggest-spending leagues in the world over the past decade.
Star players including Hulk, Oscar and Paulinho arrived in the country along with World Cup winning coaches Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe-Scolari.
Jiangsu brought in ex-England coach Fabio Capello and signed Brazilians Alex Teixeira and Ramires for $78 million and $44 million respectively.
In a bid to cut costs, a new salary cap has been imposed for the 2021 season that will limit club expenditures to $90 million a year.
There have also been reports in Italy that Suning, which bought a majority stake in Inter Milan in 2016, is looking to sell the Italian club.
Jiangsu will be the second Chinese team to withdraw from the Asian Champions League that kicks off in April.
Shandong Luneng was kicked out of the competition for breaching rules regarding outstanding salary payments.
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