The future of Chinese Super League club Tianjin Tianhai is once again up in the air, just two months after reportedly being purchased.
The much-maligned club looked certain to dissolve before Vantone Holdings Corporation stepped in at the eleventh hour to save the club.
It was believed that this would be the end of the club’s struggles, but just two months later it has emerged that Vantone have not been able to agree on a financial package for the club, plunging it once again into turmoil.
The situation with the top tier club is so dire that a selection of players have stepped in, with claims that they would be willing to forgo salaries in order to cover the team’s finances themselves, allowing them to secure their place in the Chinese Super League in 2020.
The club has been at the centre of controversy ever since the days of Tianjin Quanjian, with Quanjian Group leader Shu Yuhui’s arrest followed by a year where claims of unpaid wages were made at the end.
Prior to Vantone’s approach to purchase the club, which was reportedly available for free, it was reported that the club had debts in the range of 1 Billion RMB, which the new owners would have to deal with.
Now it appears as if Vantone are unable to take over the club, leaving its future once again in the hands of the CFA should no agreement come to pass.
This may be viewed in a positive light by fans of Shenzhen FC, who would be the biggest benefactors from Tianhai dissolving, retaining their place in the Chinese Super League after suffering relegation in 2019.
With the uncertainty surrounding Tianhai, there is every belief that the club could cease to operate, with only a skeleton squad available for selection even if they manage to retain their place in the top tier.
Shenzhen, meanwhile, appears to be in a far more stable position and has built a squad that is arguably CSL-worthy, making them a more promising entity for the CFA, who will undoubtedly be exhausted by the ongoing troubles with Tianhai.
It is a disappointing turn of events for Tianhai, who looked to be a truly promising team in Chinese football after securing a third-place finish in the top tier, and later reaching the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League, just one year after lifting the China League One trophy.
A number of clubs in Chinese football have met their fates during this off-season and if a takeover agreement can’t be made, Tianjin Tianhai could very well be the latest and highest profile club to be added to the list.