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BUSINESS & TECH

Beijing Dismantles Soccer Body

By Sun Boshan, Li Huiling and April Ma

(Beijing) — China has scratched an administrative body that oversaw the nation’s soccer industry, giving more leeway to teams and other players to innovate in hopes of boosting the game.

The Football Management Center, an affiliate of the General Administration of Sport, was formally dismantled late last week. The move will leave the China Football Association as the sole body overseeing one of the nation’s most popular sports.

The Football Management Center was a rule-making government body, while the China Football Association implements those rules and is technically non-governmental, said Huang Zugang, former secretary of the Liaoning Football Association.

China’s recent soccer-improvement drive comes directly from the top, with President Xi Jinping a well-known fan. In addition to clearing up bureaucracy, Xi’s call has also unleashed a wave of billions of dollars in global soccer acquisitions by Chinese investors over the last two years.

In the 20 years that soccer was under the administration of the Football Management Center, the sport has mostly been a disappointment for fans in China, frequently marred by allegations of corruption and mediocre play.

“The Football Association and the Football Management Center have really been one office composed of the same people, with two different titles,” Huang said. “The dual responsibilities of what is essentially one organization have created much confusion, and have been a hindrance to professional reforms of the sport.”

The administration’s closure was long expected as a key step to trimming bureaucracy, a goal set for the industry in 2015 as part of a reform plan.

The soccer cleanup drive has also spurred a wave of investment in overseas clubs, as Chinese hope to bring in outside expertise to improve the game. Chinese individuals and companies have invested about $2 billion in 15 European soccer clubs over the past two years, buying stakes in in Italy’s Inter Milan, Spain’s Atletico de Madrid, and Britain’s Aston Villa and Manchester City clubs.

Contact reporter April Ma (fangjingma@caixin.com)


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