The Chinese Football Association will further deepen institutional reform in both professional leagues and youth development, and will strictly limit the number of naturalized Chinese players, newly-elected CFA president Chen Xuyuan said in Xianghe, northern Hebei Province, Xinhua reported.

Formerly president of Shanghai International Port Group, Chen became the new head of the CFA during its 11th membership conference at the National Football Training Center on Thursday.

From running a state-owned conglomerate that owns defending Chinese Super League champion Shanghai SIPG to assuming the top position in the CFA, Chen said he had read the football reform plan published by the Chinese government in 2015 “over and over again,” with the purpose of understanding Chinese football better as a whole.

Aiming to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the short-term, and transform the country into a footballing powerhouse by 2050 in the long-term, the 63-year-old told Xinhua he is ready to give his all despite significant obstacles ahead.

“The CSL and lower leagues have been rapidly developing in recent years, but our professional leagues are still facing a huge crisis,” Chen cautioned. “Our clubs can barely achieve sustainable development. The owners have invested a lot but earn little back. Some lower league clubs are on the edge of bankruptcy.

Having worked at one of the CSL’s highest-spending clubs for six years, Chen Xuyuan is fully aware of the hidden financial crisis among Chinese clubs. Wire photo.

“I realized this could be detrimental to Chinese football when I was at Shanghai SIPG, and I feel more anxious since preparing for the CFA election three months ago.”

Having worked at one of the CSL’s highest-spending clubs for six years, Chen is fully aware of the hidden crisis, and worried about the soaring expenditure and relatively low revenue among Chinese clubs.

“The healthy development of professional leagues is the cornerstone of Chinese football. Clubs need to be financially independent. We are far from that,” Chen stated, noting that his first move will be to focus on promoting the independent operation of the CSL, which is currently managed directly by the CFA.

According to his blueprint, the future CSL should operate as an independent and market-oriented corporation like the Premier League in England and Spain’s La Liga, in which member clubs act as shareholders. The CFA would no longer be involved in the day-to-day operation of the league, instead functioning as a supervisory body.

“I think in the future, the CSL and the CFA will be partners. As long as we make the rules clear, there won’t be much conflict between the two and our professional leagues will be able to develop themselves better. The policies in the league will be more consistent,” Chen said, adding that the new plans would be drawn up in October in time to be implemented ahead of the 2020 CSL season.