Lack of sponsor holds up Chinese soccer

Beijing, Feb 25 | Updated: Feb 26 2005, 05:30am hrs
The start of Chinas Super League was postponed by a month, giving soccer clubs more time to find sponsorship after Siemens AG withdrew its backing last month, the Chinese Football Association said. The 14 teams voted to play from April 2 instead of March 5 at a meeting in Xianghe on Thursday, an association spokeswoman said.

Clubs are also seeking more revenue and greater say in the leagues running, said Louis Liu, who represents seven teams. The Super Leagues debut season last year was marred by match-fixing allegations, low attendances and disputes between teams and the Chinese FA, which runs the league. Siemens cut short a three-year contract that paid 4 million euros ($5.3 million) to 8 million euros a season, according to Liu. Were looking forward to having more time to repackage or redevelop the commercial values of the teams and the league, Liu, managing director of Rhino Sports International, a sports consultancy, said in a telephone interview.

Football has been dumped in the bottom of a valley but it is going to bounce back. Xie Yalong, who took over from Yan Shiduo as head of the Chinese FA last week, agreed on the teams request to postpone the league. Liu said hes confident things are moving in the right direction.

Last season, two clubs threatened to pull out of the league and relegation was postponed after teams alleged match-fixing. Two games were abandoned after managers pulled their players following disputed refereeing calls and a referee was suspended for eight matches.

Black Whistles Beijing Hyundais manager Yang Zuwu, who was banned for withdrawing his players, said in October that corruption was endemic and complained of faked matches, black whistles, betting on games and other ugly phenomena.

Siemens spokesman Charles Wong said, the leagues problems definitely had some effect on sponsors but that wasnt our main reason for canceling the contract. He declined to comment on the value of the sponsorship. Siemens, Germanys largest engineering company, dropped out mainly for strategy reasons, Wong said in a telephone interview.

The company continues to sponsor the Chinese national team, he added. Chinese Football Association spokesman Dong Hua couldnt be reached for comment. Liu said clubs want the league to be a separate entity from the association, which currently determines how much revenue teams get and issues such as relegation and promotion. The clubs want to be involved in those decisions. We have one more chance to make it right as we didnt in the first season, Liu said. We cant afford to hang around for more time and continue the mistakes.