Chinese league schedule in disarray after COVID hits hub on tropical island

2 minute read
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

BEIJING, Aug 8 (Reuters) - A number of Chinese Super League matches that were to be played in the southern city of Haikou will be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the tropical island and a third of the league's teams currently based there will be temporarily unable to leave, state media reported on Monday.

The decision by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) means that six teams who are in Haikou following recent matches -- Chengdu Rongcheng, Jinmen Tigers, Shandong Taishan, Hebei, Cangzhou Lions and Guangzhou -- will be unable to leave the city for the moment, Beijing Daily said.

Two matches involving these six teams originally scheduled for later in the calendar, between Guangzhou and Chengdu and between Cangzhou and Shandong, have been brought forward to Aug. 12 and will still be played in Haikou.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Matches that do not involve those six teams will proceed as scheduled but other matches will be postponed.

Beijing Guoan, who were due to play home fixtures in Haikou, will not be affected for the moment since their next three matches are away games, the report said.

The league has been severely affected by the pandemic, with the majority of teams unable to play at their own grounds since the end of the 2019 season.

The decision further upsets the league’s schedule which has vowed to play through the World Cup period later this year all the way until December 18 after it took a break earlier this summer to accommodate the China national team's involvement in the East Asian Championship in Japan.

It is also the latest blow to Chinese football after the country relinquished the rights to next year's Asian Cup final and unfortunate given that Haikou had been marked as one of several neutral venues being used by clubs this season.

The global health crisis and China's pursuit of a zero-COVID strategy, coupled with increasing difficulties within the business sector that bankrolled many of the country's clubs, has left the game in turmoil.

Jiangsu FC closed last year, months after they won the 2020 Chinese Super League title. Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic withdrew from the CSL and ceased operations because of rising debts in May.

The home-and-away format will see clubs that have been granted permits by local authorities allowed to host matches at their own stadiums.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Martin Pollard; editing by Christian Radnedge

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.