Chinese football agonises over wage cuts in face of COVID-19

SHANGHAI (AFP) – Chinese Super League (CSL) players were under growing pressure yesterday to take a pay cut as the coronavirus hits football hard.

The CSL has some of the best-paid coaches and players in the world with Shanghai SIPG’s Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar reportedly earning nearly USD30 million a year.

However, while many CSL players have donated masks and other equipment in the fight against the pandemic, which has caused all football to stop, there is no unified response.

The CSL season was supposed to begin on February 22 but was indefinitely postponed because of the outbreak, which began in China last December before spreading worldwide.

The campaign is unlikely to begin before late May at the earliest even though China said that the number of locally transmitted infections and deaths has dwindled.

State-run Xinhua news agency published a lengthy article debating whether CSL clubs should follow Barcelona and Juventus in temporarily cutting salaries by as much as 70 per cent. A similar argument is raging in the English Premier League.

A video conference involving CSL clubs tomorrow will likely see salary cuts discussed, the Beijing News said.

Other media went further, saying that a salary reduction will definitely be broached in Chinese Football Association (CFA) talks this week.

Xinhua cited online polls of fans showing that the overwhelming majority – in one instance 90 per cent of respondents – were in favour a pay cut.

But it noted that some fans are against reducing salaries because, unlike in suspended European leagues, CSL teams are already in training for the new season even though it has no start date.

Xinhua quoted one CSL club as being “inclined to cut pay” but is awaiting guidance from the CFA and FIFA.

“All clubs are watching, the problem is that no one wants to be the first,” the news agency cited another as saying.