Chinese football authorities will impose salary caps on domestic clubs and send auditors to probe their finances, toughening a crackdown on the record-breaking sums spent to acquire top foreign players.

Teams will be required to provide detailed information on their financial situations including funding sources, and the salary caps will be devised based on league and individual club revenues, the China Football Association (CFA) said in a statement late Thursday.

Clubs in China’s top-tier Super League, typically owned by large private or state-owned corporations, have over the past year shelled out increasingly extravagant amounts to import foreign stars such as Brazil’s Oscar and Hulk, and Argentina’s Carlos Tevez.

But China’s sports ministry earlier this month warned of action against clubs that spend recklessly, and the CFA this week lowered the number of foreign players that teams can field.

The CFA did not specify what action clubs would face for violating the salary caps.

But it said clubs that spend “extremely high sums” on transfer fees will be required to put proportional amounts into Chinese youth football programmes.

The measures were aimed at addressing problems such as “increasingly irrational investment”, weak youth training systems and insufficient Super League investment in infrastructure such as stadiums and training facilities, according to the statement.

Tevez landed to a hero’s welcome from hundreds of fans of his new club Shanghai Shenhua on Thursday in a deal that Argentine media have said will make him the world’s top-earning footballer at 38 million euros ($40 million) annually.

Two weeks earlier, Oscar arrived to play for cross-town Shanghai rivals SIPG under a 60-million-euro ($63 million) deal from Chelsea — the fifth time in a year that Chinese clubs had shattered the Asian transfer-fee record.

The season starts in March.

The lavish sums have raised concerns over a salary bubble, questions over the solvency of teams and spurred calls for more spending to instead be channelled into raising the disappointing level of Chinese football.

Despite being the world’s most populous country with 1.37 billion people, China’s national team is ranked just 81st globally, a notch below Saint Kitts and Nevis, population 50,000.

The CFA on Monday cut the number of foreigners that top-flight teams could field from four to no more than three per match and will require them to field at least two under-23 Chinese players to help develop young domestic footballers.

Its statement Thursday said teams also would be required to reduce their financial dependence on their deep-pocketed parent companies. – Agence France-Presse

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