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Confusion reigns in Dalian

Last month, Wild East Football carried the news that Dalian Aerbin were set to purchase neighbours Dalian Shide for RMB320 million ( £32 million), following financial backer Shide Group’s well publicised political issues (a quick Google search will help explain). The takeover looked to be a smooth process at that point, but it has since developed into a bureaucratic nightmare for all involved. Thankfully, though, there does look to have been progress in recent days.

The issues

Under Chinese Super League (CSL) rules, in order for a merger to take place, the club that is taken over must first cease operations and rescind their licenses. That’s all well and good, if it weren’t for FIFA rules dictating that as soon as that were to occur, Shide’s players would no longer be under contract. This leaves Aerbin in an awkward position. If the teams should merge then, despite having already secured the future of some Shide players, they would lose the remainder of the squad. That would both mean that their asset would be devalued and, at the same time, they would be restricted to just five new additions from the Shide squad under the CSL’s domestic registration regulations.

Another possibility is that Aerbin complete their takeover of Shide’s ownership, but continue to run two sides. This, too, remains an unattractive proposition with rules preventing shared ownership in the same division meaning that Shide would be forced to drop down to the second tier.

Whichever way you look at it, Aerbin’s takeover looks to be encountering problems and the CSL, for a long time, looked to be at a loss as to how to solve the situation. Currently, both sides are embarking on winter training separately, with Shide continuing to operate as a separate entity for the time being.

Latest developments

To protect themselves against all possible circumstances, it has emerged that Aerbin have already quietly gone about transferring some players between the clubs. The Shide quartet of Li Xuepeng, Zhao Honglve, Yang Boyu and Wang Xuanhong have been much sought-after by other sides since news of their possible availability emerged, but have now linked up with their new Aerbin team-mates for winter training this week.

For the moment, except for those out of contract at the end of 2012, all remaining Shide players continue to be embargoed to all other clubs, so as not to devalue the club as an asset. On Sunday, though, the Jinghua Times published quotes from an unnamed CSL official suggesting that a consensus is close on the matter.

“Regarding the Dalian merger issue, we have had constructive talks with the Dalian authorities and have reached an agreement. Shide will quickly work to prepare the surrendering of their assets, meaning their players would become free agents and Aerbin would recruit plays according to the regulations.”

Talk of a resolution is a clear positive step in light of a week of turmoil in which Dalian Football Association secretary general Guo Jun was forced into an apology for criticism of the national Football Association’s handling of the issues. However, there are still potential stumbling blocks. According to the CFA policies, Aerbin would be allowed to register five of the Shide players, as well as three Under-21 players. Not exactly what they had hoped for.

The official who spoke to reporters indicated that, with the decisions approved by relevant authorities, it is still up to Aerbin to decide whether to complete their buy-out of Shide. Given the restrictions on the players they can transfer, RMB320 million would look a rather steep price to pay at this point.

There has been progress at regional Football Association level, but that could all be rendered meaningless if Aerbin object to the conditions proposed. This appears to be an internal issue within the FA itself. Unfortunately, the saga looks set to rumble on for some time, with the future of eight-time national champions Dalian Shide as yet undecided.

Based in Guangzhou, Christopher covers Chinese football for a range of media outlets worldwide and is Wild East Football's lead editor for news content.   His work can regularly be seen on ESPN FC, Bleacher Report and Hupu amongst other media outlets, while he has interviewed a number of leading figures in Chinese football.

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