China turns screw on soccer transfer rules

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will tighten rules over its domestic soccer teams splashing out on high-profile players and add new rules about youth development, creating potential obstacles to clubs making splashy signings of overseas players.

Chinese clubs that are “loss-making”, now a large portion of domestic teams, will have to match any expenditure on player transfers by investing the same amount into a soccer development fund, China’s soccer association said late on Wednesday.

The new rule, which will be introduced from this year’s summer transfer window, is aimed at bringing down soaring price tags on transfers and to support local players, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said.

Chinese soccer, though still far behind regions like Europe in terms of its overall global standing, has been a major driver of the recent soccer transfer market amid a broad push to invest in overseas clubs, sports academies and top players.

A spate of marquee signings has seen players such as Brazil’s Oscar and Argentine Carlos Tevez make big-money moves to China. Others like Wayne Rooney and Diego Costa, both currently in England, have also been linked to Chinese clubs.

Shanghai’s SIPG signed Oscar from English club Chelsea in a deal said to make him the highest-paid player in the world, at a reported fee of 60 million euros ($62.6 million).

The CFA said clubs, however, should “standardize transfer behaviour and make rational investments”.

The association, who said in January clubs would be limited to fielding a maximum of three foreign players per game, said in a separate announcement that from next season the number of Chinese under-23 players in each game should match the number of foreign players.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Greg Stutchbury