The Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced its plan to start the 2020 Chinese Super League (CSL) games on July 25. In a statement released on the association’s official website, the Chinese Football tournament governing body confirmed that the country’s top-level professional football tournament will start in two Chinese cities, Dalian and Suzhou, later this month.
The Chinese top-level league was scheduled to start on Feb. 22 but was indefinitely delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The CFA will practice its due diligence to complete all needed work to ensure the success of the matches, and strictly follow all requirements from public health authorities. The association will coordinate and ensure that all parties are organized to continue the CSL in a secure and ordered way.”
Prior to announcing the starting date of the tournaments, the CFA has already completed the trainings for officials in the CSL, as well as China’s second-tier football league, Chinese League One. The late start of the CSL ends the lengthy efforts, which lasted months, to push for the tournament’s restart. Similar to the restart of the country’s Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league, the CSL also picked two cities that are not provincial capitals as a way to pass through the requirements from its governing bodies.
The CFA has yet to release detailed match schedules and other information with regards to the 2020 CSL tournament. More news is expected to be made public following the all-club managers’ meeting in Shanghai on July 6. The first part of the CSL, which includes 14 rounds of games, is expected to finish by the end of September. The league will then pause for the Chinese National Team to play four qualification games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The CFA has yet to establish any plans for the remaining fixtures in the 2020 season. The association is hoping for an ideal case to conclude the 2020 CSL season in late December.
Chinese League One and lower divisions will not start for now. The CFA will evaluate the situation in its top-level tournament before making a plan for other tournaments.
All football clubs in the CSL will be required to arrive in their respective match cities (either Dalian or Suzhou) one week before the start of the game. All football clubs will be offered the same accommodations and will remain in a closed environment with no interaction with the outside world. Players and staff will not be allowed to leave except for special circumstances. All players and staffs will need to be prepared for not returning home for two to three months.
Media reporters will also be required to stay in hotels approved by the CFA, and will not be allowed to enter the fields unless otherwise approved. All interviews will need to be arranged by the CSL. All pre-match press conferences are likely to be cancelled. Reporters are allowed to render their questions to the league officials, who will then pass these questions on to the head coaches for them to answer in the post-match press conferences. Reporters will not be able to hold traditional face-to-face sessions in press conferences, but will rather watch the press conferences on TV.
Despite some Chinese football clubs successfully bringing back their players to China, the majority of CSL football clubs are still missing key players for their upcoming seasons. As of July 1, only 4 out of the 16 CSL teams have their entire squad available for the games that are scheduled to begin on July 25. For teams like Chongqing, they are now under the predicament of playing the 2020 CSL games without any foreign players. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not eased its travel restrictions on foreign nationals since March. Commercial inbound flights to China remain limited. Foreign players are key components for CSL teams to be competitive. The travel restrictions are expected to cause significant issues for teams whose foreign players are yet to return.
In addition to the Chinese League One and lower division tournaments, the CFA has several un-resolved issues related to the CSL. League officials have yet to announce arrangements for promotion and relegations, detailed schedules for part two of the Super League games, as well as the CFA Cup games and the distribution of AFC Club’s Champion Leagues qualifications. Different from the Chinese Basketball Association tournament, the CSL has yet to reveal its plans to organize the 2020 season in a professional and organized way.