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Evergrande’s misguided attempt to increase number of foreigners must be rejected

Guangzhou Evergrande is once again pursuing a proposal to expand the number of foreigners each CSL team is allowed to carry on the roster. The team would like to see an additional two roster spots go to foreigner players, though no change would take place with the number of foreigners allowed on the pitch.

The club’s owner, Xu Jiayin, claims he’s doing this based on the desire of CSL fans, and there does appear to be some support for the proposal among casual fans. However, there are many flaws with this proposal, most of all the harm it will do to Chinese football.

While Evergrande claim that this proposal won’t take spots away from Chinese players and that the current maximum three foreigners plus one Asian player on the field at one time wouldn’t be changed, that’s patently false. Adding two additional foreigners to the roster means that two Chinese players will lose their spot. Young Chinese players, the exact type to take up the last few roster spots on a CSL club, would now find it even harder to break into a CSL team.

This would also fly in the face of what is currently the norm across Asia. In Japan, Korea, and Australia, the maximum number of foreigners on a roster is capped at five, with some of these leagues only allowing four. Thailand, a rising football nation in Asia, is going the opposite way, changing the number of foreigners in their domestic league from seven to five in hopes of promoting and improving domestic talent.

Supporters of this move point to European clubs, where there are no limits on the number of foreigners, but doing so is showing ignorance of reality. The game in Europe is far more advanced than in Asia and doesn’t require the same degree of protectionism. Further, when an English Premiership side lines up without a single English player in the lineup, its viewed as a disgrace. Some even view this as one of the reasons for England’s lack of success in international competitions.

At the same time, what will the quality of the additional foreigners be like? One of the arguments in favor of the proposal is that the Chinese players will learn and grow from practicing alongside these additional foreigners, but as it is now, many clubs’ foreigners aren’t really better than the domestic talent. If foreigners know it’s even less likely they’ll break into the starting lineup, many are even less likely to bother with China.

Xu Jiayin is only concerned with winning at all costs and could care less what damage he may be causing Chinese football. One wonders how strong his commitment is to sponsoring a football club and if he’ll get bored after a few more years. If he really just wants to spend a lot of money, get famous, and have talented foreigners working for him, why doesn’t he buy an English league club?

Hopefully Beijing Guoan, Shandong Luneng, and other rationally thinking clubs will be able to prevent this from happening.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.



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