Chinese football was in disarray on Sunday as the owners of defending Chinese Super League champion Jiangsu FC announced the club would cease operations with immediate effect.
A post on Jiangsu’s official WeChat account expressed hope that new funders or that an “insight company” would be willing to consult on the team’s future.
The announcement stated that all owners of Suning Group football clubs, including the hugely successful Jiangsu Suning Women, “will cease operations from today.”
The Nanjing-based retailer, one of the largest in China and which also owns Italian Serie A club Inter Milan, earlier in February announced plans to focus on core businesses, leaving non-commercial assets at risk .
Those strengths include Jiangsu FC, which first won the Chinese Super League title in November with a playoff victory over eight-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
The victory was the climax of a race by a once-cashed club previously coached by former England manager Fabio Capello, and who in the summer of 2019 tried to sign Gareth Bale, former world’s most expensive player, from Real Madrid.
The team that won the title and a place in this year’s Asian Champions League included Brazilian winger Alex Teixeira, who opted to make a € 50million ($ 60.37million) move to the Jiangsu in 2016 due to interest from Premier League side Liverpool.
When Teixeira refused to sign a new contract at the end of last season and coach Cosmin Olaroiu was unlikely to return to the club, questions began to arise about Jiangsu’s financial future and its impact on soccer in China.
Jiangsu’s announcement comes days after Chinese FA Cup winners Shandong Luneng had their expulsion from the Asian Champions League confirmed by the Asian Football Confederation for “overdue payments.”
If Jiangsu fails to find new owners quickly, their absence could cause further upheaval in the Asian Champions League before mainland competition begins in April.
Retailer Suning.com, which is also part of the Suning Group, said shareholders plan to sell 20% to 25% of the company to anonymous buyers, which could result in a change of control as the Suning Group seeks to raise cash.