China’s leading professional clubs have denied they are in breach of regulations that could see them kicked out of next year’s Chinese Super League.
A letter from China’s football authorities said 13 top flight clubs were at risk of exclusion.
Six-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande, big spending Shanghai SIPG, Beijing Guoan and 10 other clubs were among 18 from the top three divisions of Chinese football to be named in the letter.
It was sent by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) on Tuesday and warned clubs of the need to pay outstanding debts or face removal from next year’s championship.
Beijing, SIPG, Shandong Luneng and Jiangsu Suning all issued statements denying any irregularities, while Shanghai Shenhua said they were investigating and would finalise outstanding payments as soon as possible.
The letter followed one issued by the Asian Football Confederation on July 11 which said clubs with outstanding debts would not be able to compete in the continental club championship.
An AFC spokesman stressed that the directive was sent to all member associations and was not specifically targeted at Chinese clubs.
The Chinese FA letter went further, however, saying: “These clubs must pay close and urgent attention to the matter and solve the debt problem, before submitting evidence … to CFA once they are done.
“Those who fail to solve the debt problem or miss the deadline will be disqualified from any China professional football leagues from 2018, according to the CFA professional league club entry requirements and review guidelines.”
Shanghai SIPG were among those to deny there were outstanding payments, saying: “After an investigation, we found that we have fully paid all of the accused in arrears last October.
“The club has submitted its evidence to the CFA.”
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch