China’s soccer reform has taken an eye-catching step forward as the top sports body pledged on Aug 17 to relinquish its administrative grip on the Chinese Football Association, making the association a full-fledged nongovernmental organization.
As part of a comprehensive soccer reform plan issued by the State Council in March, delinking the semi-administrative CFA from the General Administration of Sport of China, the top sports governing body that is now managing the association with its own government officials, has been a key for overhauling the entire soccer management system in China and making it more professional.
The General Administration of Sport of China announced on Aug 17 that it was cutting its grip on the association through a personnel reshuffle, which will see its officials and staff workers withdraw from CFA management. This will make the association an NGO with independent operation and financial systems.
Cai Zhenhua, current CFA president and deputy director of the General Administration of Sport of China, said all government officials currently involved in CFA management, including himself, could choose to become full-time CFA executives or step down from the CFA for roles outside the sports administrative system.
“Reshuffling CFA management is a priority to carry on overall soccer reform, which will see the game’s management run independently without interference from administrative powers,” Cai said at a news briefing on Aug 17.
Although the largest nation in the world, China hasn’t been able to achieve success on the soccer field. The game has been plagued by poor international results, match-fixing and corruption scandals, partially because of the bureaucratic semi-administrative management, experts said.
“The separation of the CFA from the sports governing umbrellas is in line with international practice, and will allow the association to make decisions based on the needs of the game’s development, and not affected by administrative orders,” said TanJianxiang, a professor of sports sociology at South China Normal University.
The reform initiative was announced in February at a top-level meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping, who is an avid soccer fan.
According to the revised CFA constitution, the new leadership will be elected at its 47-member congress at the end of the year, when the association’s new organizational structure is established.
The association will stop receiving government funding and stand on its own feet financially through independent marketing initiatives. It will also make its financial records public to member associations and society, while receiving annual third-party audits.
The association will hand over decision-making powers to a domestic league council, which was formed by 16 Chinese Super League club shareholders in 2005 to run the top-level league, and only offers supervision and club entry assessment.