Chinese Super League
The Chinese Football Association Super League (simplified Chinese: 中国足球协会超级联赛; traditional Chinese: 中國足球協會超級聯賽; pinyin: Zhōngguó Zúqiú Xiéhuì Chāojí Liánsài), commonly known as Chinese Super League (simplified Chinese: 中超联赛; traditional Chinese: 中超聯賽; pinyin: Zhōngchāo Liánsài) or CSL, currently known as the China Ping An Chinese Football Association Super League for sponsorship reasons, is the highest tier of professional football in China, operating under the auspices of the Chinese Football Association (CFA).
|Number of teams||16|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||China League One|
|Domestic cup(s)||Chinese FA Cup|
Chinese FA Super Cup
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League|
|Current champions||Jiangsu Suning |
|Most appearances||Yang Zhi (350)|
|Top goalscorer||Elkeson (107 goals)|
Several regional channels
|Current: 2021 Chinese Super League|
The Chinese Super League was created by the rebranding of the former top division Chinese Football Association Jia-A League in 2004 (see Chinese Jia-A League, not to be confused with Chinese Football Association Jia League, which is the current second-tier league).
Originally contested by 12 teams in its inaugural year, the league has since expanded, with 16 teams competing in the 2020 season. A total of 32 teams have competed in the CSL since its inception, with 8 of them winning the title: Guangzhou (eight), Shandong Taishan (three), Shenzhen, Dalian Shide, Changchun Yatai, Beijing Guoan, Shanghai Port, and Jiangsu (all one title). The current Super League champions are Jiangsu, who won the 2020 edition.
The Chinese Super League is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in China, with an average attendance of 24,107 for league matches in the 2018 season. This is the twelfth-highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world and the sixth-highest of any professional association football league in the world, behind Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Liga MX.
The League is now running under the authorization of the Chinese Football Association, The CSL Company, which is currently the commercial branch of the League, is a corporation in which the CFA and all of the member clubs act as shareholders. It is planned that the CFA will ultimately transfer their shares of The CSL Company to the clubs and professional union which consists of CSL clubs will be established as the League's management entity.
Unlike many top European leagues like Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A, the Chinese Super League starts in February or March and ends in November or December. In each season, each club plays each of the other clubs twice, once at home and another away. With 16 clubs currently in the Super League, teams play 30 games each, for a total of 240 games in the season.
The two lowest-placed teams by the end of the season are relegated to the China League One and the top two teams from the League One are promoted, taking their places.
The League position is determined by the highest number of points accumulated during the season. If two or more teams are level on points, tiebreakers are, in the following order
- Highest number of points accumulated in matches between the teams concerned;
- Highest goal difference in matches between the teams concerned;
- Highest number of goals scored in matches between the teams concerned;
- Highest points accumulated by the reserve teams in the reserve league
- Highest points accumulated by the U19 teams in the U19 league
- Highest goal difference;
- Highest number of goals scored;
- Fair-Play points (Clubs deduct 1 point for a yellow card, and 3 points for a red card);
- Draw by lot;
Chinese Super League clubs in international competition
When the Asian Football Confederation started the AFC Champions League in the 2002–03 season, China was given 2 slots in the competition. Qualification for the AFC Champions League changed in 2009 as AFC distributed 4 slots to China. The top three of the league, as well as the winner of the Chinese FA Cup, qualify for the AFC Champions League of the next year. If the FA Cup finalists finish the league in 3rd or higher, the 4th place team in the league will take the Champions League spot.
Between the 2002–03 and the 2017 season, Chinese clubs won the AFC Champions League two times, behind Korean K-League with five wins, and Japanese J-League with three wins.
The Chinese Super League is currently first in the AFC Club Competitions Ranking of Asian leagues based on their performances in Asian competitions over a four-year period and FIFA ranking for national teams.
On 17 November 2017, the Vice-president of the CFA, Li Yuyi, disclosed the expansion plan of the top four level leagues of China. The Chinese Super League is planning to expand to 18 clubs, followed by China League One with 20 clubs, China League Two with 32 clubs and the Chinese Football Association Member Association Champions League with 48 clubs.
Also, the CFA stated that "we should build CSL the 6th best league in the world."
The Chinese National Football League was started in 1951, namely the National Football Conference, it was a round-robin tournament with 8 teams participating. In 1954, the competition was renamed as National Football League, the League was divided into two Divisions in 1956 and promotion/relegation between the two tiers started since 1957. In the 1980s, the Chinese Football Association allowed enterprise entities to sponsor and invest in football teams. The League entered Semi-pro period in 1987, sponsored by Goldlion Group, the league played its first ever home and away season, teams participating includes the top 7 clubs of 1986 Division 1 together with Liaoning, who was 1985 season champions but did not compete in 1986 league season due to participate in Asian Club Championship, the tournament was named as National Football League Division 1 Group A, shortly as Chinese Jia-A League, the other 8 clubs of Division 1 and top 4 clubs from Division 2 participated in Chinese Jia-B League. The two groups merged in 1988 season but divided again in 1989.
In 1994, as part of the sports system reform project, the Chinese Jia-A League became the country's first professional football league. The Jia-A league achieved success in its early years, but in the late ’90s heavy criticism existed towards the League's management practices like the lack of continuity in key policies, and some of its member clubs was criticised for a lack of sustainable development. At the same time, the league was affected by gambling, match-fixing and corruption. the chaotic state of Jia-A causes troubled investment environment with sponsors and club owners bowing out. The Chinese Football Association then decided to reform the League system, which ultimately led to the creation of the Chinese Super League. The initial conception is to introduce truly commercial methods and let professional football market operate more freely, drawing on the experience of professional Leagues in Europe to redesign the league structure and strengthen professionalism.
On January 13, 2001, Yan Shiduo, vice-president of the Chinese Football Association, discussed about setting up a new professional league system. In 2002, the CFA made a decision to establish the Chinese Super League, which started in 2004.
Compared to the Jia-A, the CSL is a lot more demanding on teams. The CFA and CSL committee imposed a range of minimum criteria to ensure professional management and administration, financial probity, and a youth development program at every club. The CSL published first edition of CSL club criteria in 2002 and revised it several times, club license system was introduced since 2004. Besides the regular professional league, the CSL also has a reserve league, and Youth super league plays in U-19,U-17,U-15,U-14 and U-13 levels.
The CSL and China League One's goals are to promote high quality and high-level competition, introduce advanced managerial concepts to the market, enforce the delivery of minimum standards of professionalism, encourage the influx of more higher quality foreign coaches and players, and gradually establish the European system for player registrations and transfers.
The first CSL season began in 2004, with 12 teams in the league. The inaugural season was plagued with controversy, which continued from the former league, Jia-A, and where, since 1999, scandals such as match fixing and gambling had been uncovered. This resulted in loss of interest in the domestic game, low attendances and great financial losses.
The original plan was to have one relegated team and two promoted teams for the 2004 season and 2005 season, thus increasing the number of teams in 2006 to 14. But the CFA's decisions caused the relegations to be cancelled for these 2 years.
For the 2005 season, the league expanded to 14 teams after Wuhan Huanghelou and Zhuhai Zhongbang won promotion from China League One. The Zhuhai team, formerly Zhuhai Anping, had been bought by the Shanghai Zhongbang real estate company and relocated to Shanghai for the 2005 season, and subsequently renamed to Shanghai Zobon.
In 2006, the league was planned to expand to 16 teams with the newly promoted Xiamen Lanshi and Changchun Yatai. However, Sichuan Guancheng withdrew before the start of the season, leaving only 15 teams when the season started on March 11. Shanghai Liancheng Zobon, after another change of ownership, was renamed Shanghai United.
In 2007, the league was again planned to be expanded to 16 teams, but once again it found itself one team short. Shanghai United's owner, Zhu Jun, bought a major share in local rival Shanghai Shenhua and merged the two teams. As a result, Shanghai Shenhua retained its name as it already had a strong fanbase in the city, while Shanghai United pulled out of the league.
In 2008, the season started with 16 clubs participating for the first time, however Wuhan protested against punishments made by the CFA after a match against Beijing Guo'an, and announced its immediate withdrawal from the league, which left the season to finish with 15 clubs.
Since 2009, the league has run with 16 stable clubs participating in each year. Two are relegated to China League One, and two promoted from China League One each season.
In 2010, the CSL was beset by a scandal going right to the top of the CFA. The Chinese government took nationwide action against football gambling, match-fixing and corruption, and former CFA vice presidents Xie Yalong, Nan Yong and Yang Yimin were arrested. On February 22, 2010, CFA relegate Guangzhou Yiyao for match-fixing in 2006 China League One Season, as well as Chengdu Blades for match-fixing in 2007 China League One season.
In 2011, the anti-corruption movement had visibly improved the image of the CSL, with increases to attendance. Clubs such as Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua began investing heavily in foreign stars. After former Fluminense midfielder Darío Conca transferred in 2011, some notable signings during the 2012 seasons included former Chelsea forward Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita and Fábio Rochemback, former Sevilla forward Frédéric Kanouté, former Blackburn Rovers forward Yakubu and former Borussia Dortmund forward Lucas Barrios. Former Japanese national team coach Takeshi Okada took up the reins as the new coach of Hangzhou Greentown, former Argentina national team coach Sergio Batista replaced Jean Tigana as Shanghai Shenhua's head coach, and former Italy national team and Juventus manager Marcello Lippi replaced Lee Jang-Soo as Guangzhou Evergrande's head coach.
In 2012, Guangzhou Evergrande became the first Chinese team to defend their CSL title, and to win consecutive titles. However, eight-time champions of Professional League, Dalian Shide, had seriously financial problems during the entire season, especially after the arrest of club owner Xu Ming. They had planned to merge with Dalian Aerbin, the other CSL club of the city, but the Chinese Football Association blocked the merger at the end, as Dalian Shide failed to cancel their registration as a CSL club before the merger. So Aerbin effectively purchased and swallowed up Shide, including the club's famed academy and training facilities. Dalian Shide was officially dissolved on 31 January 2013. The country's most successful club had ceased to exist.
In 2013, David Beckham became first global ambassador for CSL. Guangzhou Evergrande won AFC Champions League for first time. In February 2013, Shanghai Shenhua was stripped of its 2003 Chinese Ji-A league title as part of a broad match-fixing crackdown. In total, 12 clubs were handed punishments, while 33 people, including former CFA vice-president Xie Yalong and Nan Yong, received life bans. Also in 2013, Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao won the Asian Champions League title, the first time a Chinese Super League team has won that award.
In 2014, Guangzhou Evergrande became the first Chinese club to win four consecutive professional league titles.
In 2015, ex-Tottenham midfielder Paulinho moved to Guangzhou Evergrande at the age of 27, Guangzhou Evergrande become AFC champions League champions for second time.
In 2016, Chinese super league became a rising power in the global transfer market. Brazil international Ramires, Colombia international Jackson Martinez and Fredy Guarin were among the notable signings, while Pavel Nedvěd was appointed as second global ambassador for CSL.
2017 saw the Chinese Super League (CSL) catapulted to global attention. Players such as Oscar, Carlos Tevez, Ricardo Carvalho, Alexandre Pato and Mikel John Obi all moved east during the year. Guangzhou Evergrande won their 7th consecutive league title.
2018, in the 28th round of the 2018 Chinese Super League, the two title favourites Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao clashed head-to-head, with Shanghai SIPG coming away with 5 - 4 hard win over Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao to open up the points gap with Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao. At last, Shanghai SIPG won the 2018 Chinese Super League Champion , thus breaking Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao's 7-year monopoly of the Chinese Super League.
At the 2019 CSL Mobilization Meeting, the CFA Referees Committee officially announced that a professional referee system will be introduced in the CSL in 2019, with two foreign referees including Mark Clattenburg, Milorad Mažić, and three local referees to be officially hired as the first professional referees in the history of Chinese football. The two foreign professional referees will be mainly responsible for enforcing the Chinese Super League, but will also provide coaching and training for local referees.
Affected by COVID-19,the 2020 Chinese Super League has been postponed to July 25. The 16 teams will be divided into two groups to play in Suzhou and Dalian. This year's league was temporarily changed to a "Group stage + Knockout" format and adopted a tournament system.
Planning cooperation structure
The preparatory committee of the Chinese Professional Football League was established on May 27, 2016, with members from 5 CSL clubs, 3 CL1 clubs and 2 CL2 clubs, includes two CFA representatives. The blueprint is to have all of the three professional level leagues of China, the Chinese Super League, China Football League one and China Football League two separated from the League structure of the CFA. The PFL will be a private company wholly owned by its Member Clubs who make up the League at any one time. Each club is a shareholder, with one vote each on issues such as rule changes and contracts. The newly formed PFL would have commercial independence from The CFA, giving the PFL licence to negotiate its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements.
The CFA will no longer hold any shares of the League, but as national governing body for football in China the CFA is responsible for sanctioning competition Rule Books, and regulating on-field matters. It also organises The CFA Cup competition, in which PFL Member Clubs compete and the lower division leagues ranked after CL2, under specific agreement between CFA and PFL. The CFA also has the ability to exercise a vote on certain specific issues, but has no role in the day-to-day running of the CSL, CL1 and CL2.
On January 3, 2017, the CFA announced that Chinese Professional Football League, formed as a limited company, will be established in March 2017, the CSL and CL1 clubs will be found members of the PFL starts from 2017, with CL2 planning to join the system by 2019. The PFL preparatory committee will discuss and establish the regulations and the structures of the PFL, holding the elections of the PFL president in January and February 2017. However, after a series of meetings includes CFA officers and club owners, the plan had been put on hold.
Chinese Super League seasons and champions
Performances in Chinese Super League
|Club||Titles||Runners-up||Winning seasons||Runner-up seasons|
|2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019||2018, 2020|
|2006, 2008, 2010||2004, 2013|
|2009||2007, 2011, 2014, 2019|
|2005, 2006, 2008|
|Tianjin Jinmen Tiger||
|Club||Chinese name||Owners||Home stadium||Capacity||Seasons in CSL||Best finish||Worst finish||Spell in level 1|
|Beijing Guoan||北京国安||Sinobo Group (64%); CITIC Group (36%)||Workers' Stadium||66,000||2004 to 2021||1st, 2009||9th, 2017||from 2004|
|Cangzhou Mighty Lions||沧州雄狮||Everbright Group||Cangzhou Stadium||31,836||2015 to 2016, 2020 to 2021||7th, 2015||16th, 2016, 2020||from 2020|
|Changchun Yatai||长春亚泰||Changchun Jiarun Investment (100%)||Changchun Stadium||38,500||2006 to 2018, 2021||1st, 2007||15th, 2018||from 2021|
|Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic||重庆两江竞技||Desports (90%); Lifan Group (10%)||Chongqing Olympic Sports Center||58,600||2004 to 2006, 2009 to 2010, 2015 to 2021||6th, 2020||16th, 2009||from 2015|
|Dalian Pro||大连人||Dalian Wanda Group||Dalian Sports Centre Stadium||61,000||2012 to 2014, 2018 to 2021||5th, 2012, 2013||15th, 2014||from 2018|
|Guangzhou||广州||Evergrande Group (60%); Alibaba Group (40%)||Tianhe Stadium||58,500||2008 to 2009, 2011 to 2021||1st, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019||9th, 2009||from 2011|
|Guangzhou City||广州城||Guangzhou R&F Properties Co., Ltd.||Yuexiushan Stadium||18,000||2004 to 2010, 2012 to 2021||3rd, 2014||16th, 2010||from 2012|
|Hebei||河北||China Fortune Land Development Co., Ltd||Langfang Stadium||30,040||2016 to 2021||4th, 2017||11th, 2019||from 2016|
|Henan Songshan Longmen||河南嵩山龙门||Henan Haolin Investment (95.7%)||Zhengzhou Hanghai Stadium||29,800||2007 to 2012, 2014 to 2021||3rd, 2009||16th, 2012||from 2014|
|Qingdao||青岛||Shenzhen Hengye Investment Group Co., ltd. (63.625%); Qingdao Huanghai Health Industry Group Co., ltd. (27%); Others (9.375%)||Conson Stadium||45,000||2020 to 2021||14th, 2020||14th, 2020||from 2020|
|Shandong Taishan||山东泰山||State Grid Corporation of China||Jinan Olympic Sports Luneng Stadium||56,800||2004 to 2021||1st, 2006, 2008, 2010||14th, 2016||from 2004|
|Shanghai Shenhua||上海申花||Greenland Group||Hongkou Football Stadium||33,060||2004 to 2021||2nd, 2005, 2006, 2008||13th, 2019||from 2004|
|Shanghai Port||上海海港||Shanghai International Port Group||Pudong Football Stadium||33,765||2013 to 2021||1st, 2018||9th, 2013||from 2013|
|Shenzhen||深圳||Kaisa Group||Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre||60,334||2004 to 2011, 2019 to 2021||1st, 2004||16th, 2011||from 2019|
|Tianjin Jinmen Tiger||天津津门虎||TEDA Investment Holding Co., Ltd. (85.4%)||Tianjin Olympic Center||54,696||2004 to 2021||2nd, 2010||14th, 2018||from 2004|
|Wuhan||武汉||Wuhan Zall Development Holding Co. Ltd||Wuhan Five Rings Sports Center||30,000||2013, 2019 to 2021||6th, 2019||16th, 2013||from 2019|
|Club||Chinese name||Seasons in CSL||Best finish||Worst finish||Current league|
|Guizhou||贵州||2017 to 2018||8th, 2017||16th, 2018||China League One|
|Zhejiang Pro||浙江职业||2007 to 2016||4th, 2010||15th, 2009, 2016||China League One|
|Shaoxing Keqiao Yuejia||绍兴柯桥越甲||2014||16th, 2014||China League Two|
|Qingdao Manatee||青岛海牛||2004 to 2013||6th, 2011||15th, 2013||China League Two|
|Jiangsu||江苏苏宁||2009 to 2020||1st, 2020||13th, 2013||Defunct|
|Beijing Renhe||北京人和||2004 to 2015, 2018 to 2019||3rd, 2004||16th, 2019||Defunct|
|Tianjin Tianhai||天津天海||2017 to 2019||3rd, 2017||14th, 2019||Defunct|
|Liaoning||辽宁宏运||2004 to 2008, 2010 to 2017||3rd, 2011||16th, 2017||Defunct|
|Yanbian Funde||延边富德||2016 to 2017||9th, 2016||15th, 2017||Defunct|
|Shanghai Shenxin||上海申鑫||2010 to 2015||7th, 2013||16th, 2015||Defunct|
|Dalian Shide||大连实德||2004 to 2012||1st, 2005||14th, 2008, 2012||Defunct|
|Chengdu Tiancheng||成都天诚||2008 to 2009, 2011||9th, 2009||15th, 2011||Defunct|
|Wuhan Optics Valley||武汉光谷||2005 to 2008||5th, 2005||16th, 2008||Defunct|
|Xiamen Blue Lions||厦门蓝狮||2006 to 2007||8th, 2006||15th, 2007||Defunct|
|Shanghai United||上海联城||2005 to 2006||7th, 2006||11th, 2005||Defunct|
|Sichuan Guancheng||四川冠城||2004 to 2005||9th, 2004, 2005||Defunct|
All-time CSL table
The All-time CSL table is an overall record of all match results, points, and goals of every team that has played in CSL since its inception in 2004. The table is accurate as of the end of the 2019 season.
|5||Tianjin Jinmen Tiger||16||464||167||140||157||607||600||7||641||–||1|
|11||Henan Songshan Longmen||12||358||106||107||145||371||457||−86||425||–||–|
|16||Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic||10||286||67||84||135||306||457||−151||285||–||–|
|22||Wuhan Optics Valley||4||112||30||23||59||91||189||−98||113||–||–|
|24||Cangzhou Mighty Lions||2||60||15||24||21||62||84||−22||69||–||–|
|29||Xiamen Blue Lions||2||56||13||19||24||50||73||−23||58||–||–|
|31||Shaoxing Keqiao Yuejia||1||30||5||6||19||35||56||−21||21||–||–|
|2020 Chinese Super League|
|2020 China League One|
|2020 China League Two|
|2020 Chinese Champions League|
|Clubs that no longer exist|
There are several key rivalries and local derbies that have formed in the Chinese Super League, including:
- 2004: Shanghai Shenhua v Inter Shanghai
- 2005: Shanghai Shenhua v Inter Shanghai v Shanghai United
- 2006: Shanghai Shenhua v Shanghai United
- 2012: Shanghai Shenhua v Shanghai Shenxin
- 2013–2015: Shanghai Shenhua v Shanghai Shenxin v Shanghai Port
- 2016–present: Shanghai Shenhua v Shanghai Port
Player salaries and transfers
Professional footballers in China receive relatively high salaries when compared to other Chinese sports leagues and football leagues in other countries. The average salary for CSL players is $1,016,579 in 2017, it is ranked at eleventh place among all of the professional sports leagues and the sixth-highest of any professional association football league in the world.
CSL has two transfer windows—the primary pre-season transfer window lasts two months from January to February, and the secondary mid season transfer window runs one month from mid June to mid July. As of the 2018 season, the CSL introduced new rules mandating that each club must register a maximum 31-man squad, with 27 Chinese Players, including a player from Hong Kong, Macau and Chinese Taipei, and 4 foreign players. In the transfer window clubs could sign 5 Chinese players at any age, plus 3 under 21 Chinese players; clubs could register 4 foreign players in the winter transfer, and replace two of them in the summer transfer.
The record transfer fee for a CSL player has risen rapidly since the investment boost started in 2015. The six most expensive transfers with players coming to CSL have exceeded €30 million, with Chelsea selling Oscar to Shanghai SIPG in December 2016 for a fee of €60 million, Zenit Saint Petersburg selling Hulk to Shanghai SIPG for €55.8 million in July 2016, Shakhtar Donetsk selling Alex Teixeira to Jiangsu Suning for €50 million in February 2016, Atlético Madrid selling Jackson Martínez to Guangzhou Evergrande for €42 million in February 2016, Villarreal selling Cédric Bakambu to Beijing Guoan for €40 million in February 2018, Atlético Madrid selling Yannick Carrasco to Dalian Yifang for €30 million in February 2018. Guangzhou Evergrande's sale of Paulinho to Barcelona for €40 million in 2017 broke the record for a CSL player transfer to other leagues. Transfer fees for domestic players also increased dramatically. Beijing Guoan sold Chinese International Zhang Chengdong to Hebei China Fortune for ¥150 million in January 2017, breaking the domestic transfer record for Chinese players.
The Chinese Football Association introduced a new transfer tax to restrict transfer spending. On June 20, 2017, CFA announced that any club that pays more than ¥45 million for a foreign player transfer or ¥20 million for a Chinese player transfer must pay the same amount to a CFA youth development fund.
In December 2020, the CFA imposed a salary cap on the Super League. Starting with the 2021 season, total player wages are capped at ¥600 million, with a separate limit of €10 million for foreign players. Individual player salaries are also capped, at ¥5 million before tax for Chinese players and €3 million for foreign players.
Foreign Player policy
In early years numerous players from Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America regions were signed as the foreign players in the Chinese league. Steadily, a lot of players transferred to China from major European and South American Leagues. The league has rules, at present, restricting the number of foreign players strictly to four per team. A team could use a maximum of three foreign players on the field each game. This is to promote native player improvement and to conform to rules regarding international club competitions in the AFC. Between 2009 and 2017, there was an additional slot for a player from AFC countries. During the middle of the 2012 season, it was decided that teams that were competing in the AFC Champions League were allowed to have two extra foreign players, which can bring the number of foreigners on a team's seven; however, the policy was removed in the 2013 season.
Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese players
Policy for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese players has changed continually. Players from Hong Kong Football Association were considered foreigners at the beginning of 2009, but the league held back the change until the summer transfer window. After the 2010 season, players from Macau Football Association and Chinese Taipei Football Association (except goalkeepers) were not considered foreigners in CSL matches, but will be regarded as foreigners in AFC competitions. In the 2015 season, players who had not played for the Hong Kong national football team, Macau national football team or the Chinese Taipei national football team were no longer deemed native players. In the 2016 and 2017 season, players from the three associations whose contract was signed after 1 January 2016 were no longer deemed native players. From the 2018 season, a club could register one non-naturalized player from the three associations as a native player. According to the Chinese FA, a non-naturalized player refers to someone who was first registered as a professional footballer in the three football associations. Furthermore, Hong Kong or Macau players must be of Chinese descent of Hong Kong or Macau permanent resident, and Taiwanese players must be citizens of Taiwan.
Top scorers and Appearances
- As of 28 August 2019
Bold denotes players still playing in the CSL.
Bold denotes players still playing in the CSL.
In early years Chinese and Serbian coaches achieved success in the Chinese Super League. Just like the Jia-A period, the majority of foreign coaches were from countries like Serbia, Croatia and South Korea. Nowadays most CSL clubs appoint coaches from Western Europe and South America. Guangzhou Evergrande were the first side to spend big to bring in European and South American coaches. World Cup winning managers Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe Scolari had successful experiences at Guangzhou Evergrande. Famous coaches who have coached in China include Fabio Capello, Felix Magath, Manuel Pellegrini, Dan Petrescu, André Villas-Boas, Cuca, Sven-Göran Eriksson, Sergio Batista, Radomir Antić.
|Head coach||Club||Wins||Winning years|
|Marcello Lippi||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||3||2012, 2013, 2014|
|Luiz Felipe Scolari||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||2015, 2016, 2017|
|Ljubiša Tumbaković||Shandong Luneng Taishan||2||2006, 2008|
|Zhu Guanghu||Shenzhen Jianlibao||1||2004|
|Vladimir Petrović Pižon||Dalian Shide||2005|
|Gao Hongbo||Changchun Yatai||2007|
|Hong Yuanshuo||Beijing Guoan||2009|
|Branko Ivanković||Shandong Luneng Taishan||2010|
|Lee Jang-Soo||Guangzhou Evergrande||2011|
|Vítor Pereira||Shanghai SIPG||2018|
|Fabio Cannavaro||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||2019|
|Cosmin Olăroiu||Jiangsu Suning||2020|
|Nat.||Name||Club||Appointed||Time in charge|
|Jean-Paul van Gastel||Guangzhou City||23 February 2021||158 days|
|Wang Baoshan||Tianjin Teda||19 August 2020||346 days|
|Fabio Cannavaro||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||9 November 2017||3 years, 264 days|
|Li Xiaopeng||Wuhan Zall||27 December 2020||216 days|
|Hao Wei||Shandong Luneng Taishan||5 October 2020||299 days|
|Ivan Leko||Shanghai Port||1 January 2021||211 days|
|Jordi Cruyff||Shenzhen FC||14 August 2020||351 days|
|Xie Feng||Hebei China Fortune||10 May 2019||2 years, 67 days|
|Chang Woe-ryong||Chongqing Dangdai Lifan||18 December 2019||1 year, 225 days|
|Javier Pereira||Henan Jianye||11 September 2020||323 days|
|Choi Kang-hee||Shanghai Greenland Shenhua||5 July 2019||2 years, 26 days|
|Wang Bo||Beijing Renhe||11 December 2019||1 year, 232 days|
|Slaven Bilić||Beijing Sinobo Guoan||6 January 2021||206 days|
|Chen Yang||Changchun Yatai||5 October 2020||299 days|
|Jordi Vinyals||Zhejiang Pro||1 January 2021||211 days|
|1||Ma Lin||245||Liaoning FC (2004, 2008, 2010–2013, 2015–2017); Chongqing Lifan (2005); Dalian Yifang (2014)|
|2||Shen Xiangfu||203||Beijing Guoan (2005–2006); Guangzhou Pharmaceutical (2008–2009); Changchun Yatai (2010–2011); Henan Jianye (2012); Shanghai Shenhua (2013–2014)|
|3||Ljubiša Tumbaković||178||Shandong Luneng Taishan (2004–2009); Wuhan Zall (2013)|
|4||Gao Hongbo||160||Xiamen Lanshi (2006); Changchun Yatai (2007–2008); Guizhou Renhe (2011–2012); Shanghai East Asia (2013); Jiangsu Sainty (2013–2015)|
|5||Jia Xiuquan||152||Henan Jianye (2008, 2014–2017); Shanghai Shenhua (2008–2009)|
|5||Tang Yaodong||152||Liaoning FC (2005–2007); Henan Jianye (2008–2010, 2014)|
|6||Chang Woe-Ryong||149||Qingdao Jonoon (2011, 2012–2013); Dalian Aerbin (2011); Chongqing Lifan (2016–2017); Henan Jianye (2018)|
|7||Lee Jang-Soo||148||Beijing Guoan (2006–2009); Guangzhou Evergrande (2011–2012); Changchun Yatai (2016–2017)|
|9||Arie Haan||137||Chongqing Lifan (2009); Tianjin Teda (2010–2011, 2014–2015)|
|10||Zhu Jiong||136||Shanghai Shenxin (2010–2013); Guizhou Renhe (2014–2015)|
|Statistics correct as of the end of the 2018 Chinese Super League|
The Chinese Super League has the highest average attendance of any football league in Asia. However, stadiums have capacity restrictions.
|Season||Total Attendance||Games||Average||Change||High avg.||Team||No. Of Clubs||Relegation Slots|
|2004||1,430,600||132||10,838||-63.4%||23,636||Shandong Luneng Taishan||12||-|
|2005||1,871,700||182||10,284||-5.4%||26,000||Shandong Luneng Taishan||14||-|
|2006||2,228,300||210||10,611||+3.2%||30,679||Shandong Luneng Taishan||15||1|
|2008||3,065,280||228||13,444||-12.4%||26,501||Shandong Luneng Taishan||16||2|
|2015||5,326,304||240||22,193||+16.8%||45,889||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||16||2|
|2016||5,798,135||240||24,159||+8.8%||44,883||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||16||2|
|2017||5,703,871||240||23,766||−1.6%||45,587||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||16||2|
|2018||5,785,766||240||24,107||+1.4%||47,002||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||16||2|
Attendance by clubs
This table lists average attendances of clubs yearly, but only for seasons when that club played in the top division. Clubs are listed with their current names.
|Chongqing Dangdai Lifan||15,727||5,731||6,536||–||–||11,440||11,433||–||–||–||–||37,595||36,178||34,439||32,434|
|Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||–||–||–||–||19,624||20,057||–||45,666||37,250||40,428||42,154||45,889||44,883||45,587||47,002|
|Hebei China Fortune||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||18,469||18,054||16,029|
|Shandong Luneng Taishan||23,636||26,000||30,679||22,607||26,501||17,015||15,901||12,112||20,148||27,683||23,931||22,559||18,932||30,283||24,785|
|Shanghai Greenland Shenhua||13,636||12,462||12,786||11,393||11,510||12,627||12,963||9,828||14,761||12,739||15,417||19,506||22,690||19,021||21,480|
|Shijiazhuang Ever Bright||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||25,070||22,523||–||–|
Individual game highest attendance records
|Rank||Home team||Score||Away team||Attendance||Stadium||Date|
|1||Jiangsu Sainty||1–1||Guangzhou Evergrande||65,769||Nanjing Olympic Stadium||October 20, 2012|
|2||Jiangsu Sainty||1–2||Guangzhou Evergrande||58,792||Nanjing Olympic Stadium||July 14, 2013|
|3||Beijing Sinobo Guo'an||1–1||Shandong Luneng Taishan||56,544||Worker's Stadium||August 5, 2018|
|4||Guangzhou Evergrande||1–0||Guangzhou R&F||56,300||Tianhe Stadium||August 25, 2013|
|5||Beijing Sinobo Guo'an||2–2||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||56,211||Worker's Stadium||April 22, 2018|
|6||Beijing Guo'an||4–0||Hangzhou Greentown||54,116||Worker's Stadium||October 31, 2009|
|7||Beijing Sinobo Guo'an||2–0||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||54,018||Worker's Stadium||July 10, 2017|
|8||Beijing Sinobo Guo'an||2–2||Shandong Luneng Taishan||53,906||Worker's Stadium||August 5, 2017|
|9||Beijing Sinobo Guo'an||4–0||Beijing Renhe||53,887||Worker's Stadium||March 31, 2018|
|10||Beijing Guo'an||0–2||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||53,526||Worker's Stadium||October 31, 2015|
The official Chinese Super league annual awards are given to clubs, players, managers and referees based on their performance during the season.
The Fire-god trophy is the official trophy award to CSL champions. The trophy was created by the Sculpture Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts and donated by the official partner of the Chinese Super League, Hengyuanxiang Group, in 2004. It consists of a pure gold trophy and a nephrite plinth base. The lower part of the trophy is the model of a Great Wall beacon tower; on the upper part, on top of the rising beacon, is a football wrapped by the earth, while the base has the engraved years and names of each Chinese Super League winner since 2004. The trophy weighs 5.548 kilograms (12.23 lb). The trophy and plinth are 52 cm (20 in) tall.
The trophy is not awarded to the winning club permanently. After the award ceremony they are awarded a replica, and they are allowed to retain the genuine trophy for one year.
Player of the Year
It is also named the "Most Valuable Player".
|2004||Zhao Junzhe||Liaoning Zhongyu||China|
|2005||Branko Jelić||Beijing Guoan||Serbia|
|2006||Zheng Zhi||Shandong Luneng Taishan||China|
|2007||Du Zhenyu||Changchun Yatai|
|2008||Emil Martínez||Shanghai Shenhua||Honduras|
|2009||Samuel Caballero||Changchun Yatai|
|2010||Duvier Riascos||Shanghai Shenhua||Colombia|
|2012||Cristian Dănălache||Jiangsu Sainty||Romania|
|2013||Darío Conca||Guangzhou Evergrande||Argentina|
|2015||Ricardo Goulart||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao|
|2017||Eran Zahavi||Guangzhou R&F||Israel|
|2018||Wu Lei||Shanghai SIPG||China|
|2019||Paulinho||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||Brazil|
Golden Boot Award
This award is awarded to the top goalscorer of the league that year.
|2004||Kwame Ayew||Inter Shanghai||17|
|2005||Branko Jelić||Beijing Guoan||21|
|2006||Li Jinyu||Shandong Luneng Taishan||26|
|2008||Éber Luís||Tianjin Teda||14|
|2009|| Hernán Barcos
|Shenzhen Asia Travel / Shanghai Shenhua
|2010||Duvier Riascos||Shanghai Shenhua||20|
|2012||Cristian Dănălache||Jiangsu Sainty||23|
|2015||Aloísio||Shandong Luneng Taishan||22|
|2016||Ricardo Goulart||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||19|
|2017||Eran Zahavi||Guangzhou R&F||27|
|2018||Wu Lei||Shanghai SIPG||27|
|2019||Eran Zahavi||Guangzhou R&F||29|
There is also an award that is awarded to the top Chinese goalscorer of that season, which was first introduced in 2011.
|2011||Yu Hanchao||Liaoning FC||12|
|2012||Wang Yongpo||Shandong Luneng Taishan||10|
|2013||Wu Lei||Shanghai East Asia||15|
|2019||Wei Shihao||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||11|
Manager of the Year
|2004||Zhu Guanghu||Shenzhen Jianlibao||Chinese Super League champions||China|
|2005||Vladimir Petrović||Dalian Shide||Chinese Super League champions; Chinese FA Cup winners||Serbia|
|2006||Ljubiša Tumbaković||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Chinese Super League champions; Chinese FA Cup winners||Serbia|
|2007||Gao Hongbo||Changchun Yatai||Chinese Super League champions||China|
|2008||Ljubiša Tumbaković||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Chinese Super League champions||Serbia|
|2009||Tang Yaodong||Henan Jianye||Chinese Super League third place||China|
|2010||Branko Ivanković||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Chinese Super League champions||Croatia|
|2011||Ma Lin||Liaoning Whowin||Chinese Super League third place||China|
|2012||Dragan Okuka||Jiangsu Sainty||Chinese Super League runners-up||Serbia|
|2013||Marcello Lippi||Guangzhou Evergrande||Chinese Super League champions; AFC Champions League winners||Italy|
|2014||Gregorio Manzano||Beijing Guoan||Chinese Super League runners-up||Spain|
|2015||Luiz Felipe Scolari||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||Chinese Super League champions; AFC Champions League winners||Brazil|
|2016||Luiz Felipe Scolari||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||Chinese Super League champions; Chinese FA Cup winners||Brazil|
|2017||Fabio Cannavaro||Tianjin Quanjian||Chinese Super League 3rd place||Italy|
|2018||Li Xiaopeng||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Chinese Super League 3rd place||China|
|2019||Li Xiaopeng||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Chinese Super League 3rd place||China|
Youth Player of the Year
|2004||Chen Tao||Shenyang Ginde|
|2005||Hao Junmin||Tianjin Teda|
|2006||Wang Dalei||Shanghai Liancheng|
|2007||Hao Junmin||Tianjin Teda|
|2008||Huang Bowen||Beijing Guoan|
|2009||Deng Zhuoxiang||Jiangsu Sainty|
|2010||Zheng Zheng||Shandong Luneng Taishan|
|2011||Song Wenjie||Qingdao Jonoon|
|2012||Zhang Xizhe||Beijing Guoan|
|2013||Jin Jingdao||Shandong Luneng Taishan|
|2014||Liu Binbin||Shandong Luneng Taishan|
|2016||Li Xiaoming||Henan Jianye|
|2017||Hu Jinghang||Henan Jianye|
|2018||Huang Zichang||Jiangsu Suning|
|2019||Zhu Chenjie||Shanghai Greenland Shenhua|
There is also an award that is awarded to the U-23 player of the year, which was first introduced in 2017.
|2017||Huang Zhengyu||Guangzhou R&F|
Goalkeeper of the Year
|2012||Deng Xiaofei||Jiangsu Sainty|
|2013||Zeng Cheng||Guangzhou Evergrande|
|2014||Wang Dalei||Shandong Luneng Taishan|
|2015||Zeng Cheng||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao|
|2017||Yan Junling||Shanghai SIPG|
The current official title sponsor of the Chinese Super League is Ping'an Insurance, under the second sponsor deal between CSL and Ping'an from 2018 through 2022.
|Season||Sponsor||Annual value||Official league name|
|2004||Siemens Mobile||€8 million||Siemens Mobile Chinese Super League|
|2005||No sponsor||Chinese Football Association Super League|
|2006||IPhox||€6 million||Iphox Chinese Super League|
|2007||Kingway Beer||￥36 million||Kingway Beer Chinese Super League|
|2008||￥38 million||Kingway Beer Chinese Super League|
|2009||Pirelli||€5 million||Pirelli Chinese Super League|
|2010||€5 million||Pirelli Chinese Super League|
|2011||Wanda Plaza||￥65 million||Wanda Plaza Chinese Super League|
|2012||￥65 million||Wanda Plaza Chinese Super League|
|2013||￥65 million||Wanda Plaza Chinese Super League|
|2014||Ping An Insurance||￥150 million||China Ping'an Chinese Super League|
|2015||￥165 million||China Ping'an Chinese Super League|
|2016||￥181.5 million||China Ping'an Chinese Super League|
|2017||￥199.65 million||China Ping'an Chinese Super League|
|2018||￥200 million||China Ping'an Chinese Super League|
Partners and suppliers
As well as sponsorship for the league itself, the Chinese Super League has a number of official partners and suppliers. The official equipment supplier for the league is Nike who have had the contract since the 2005 season. According to data published by Imedia Culture Communication Co., Ltd, the sponsor value from official partners and suppliers of Chinese Super League reaches 600 million Yuan in 2017 season.
The following table shows the partners and suppliers of the Chinese Super League. Bold denotes current sponsor.
|Tsingtao Laoshan Beer||2017–2021|
|Eastroc Super Drink||2018–2019|
|China Auto Rental||2013|
The first broadcast rights holders of the rebranded Chinese Super League was the Shanghai Media Group (SMG), in September 2003 they signed the contract for 2004 to 2006 season. The second SMG contract was signed in February 2007 for the five-year period from 2007 to 2011.
CCTV acquired the CSL Television rights in 2012, and they held the rights until 2015 under annual contract, CSL was broadcast in CCTV's public cable TV channel CCTV5 and CCTV5+. however, the Sateliite TV rights was sold to Cloud Media from 2014 to 2017.
Starting from the 2016 Season The Chinese Super League sold its television rights on a collective basis. However, it benefits CSL clubs almost equally according to CSL commercial contracts. The money is divided into three parts: 10% reserved for the Chinese football association and CSL company, which is paid out as facilities fees and management expenses, as to the remaining 90%, 81% of them is divided equally between the clubs; and 9% is awarded on a merit basis based on final league position.
The current media rights holder is the China Sports Media Co., Ltd. (CSM, simplified Chinese: 体奥动力，pinyin: tǐ ào dòng lì ), CSM bought the rights for five seasons (2016–2020) for 8 billion yuan in October 2015. On January 24, 2018, The CSL and CSM reached an agreement to extend the original five-year contract to a 10-year one(2016–2025) and to raise the price to 11 billion yuan, about 1.73 billion dollars according to the exchange rate then prevailing.
Outside of China, currently IMG holds the global media rights to the Chinese Super League. The first contract was signed in 2016 for two seasons, and in 2018 IMG and CSM has sealed a three-year extension. The CSL is now broadcasting in 96 countries across the world.
|Setanta Sports Eurasia|
Reserve league and Elite league
In early years the reserve league was open to all of the reserve teams from the Chinese Super League, China League One, and China League Two clubs. In 2011, the lower leagues started their own reserve league. The CSL reserve league strictly allows CSL clubs to compete, it is played at the next day of the regular league, also in home and away format, since 2018, the reserve league is held in the same venue of the regular league.
From 2014 to 2017, an elite league was held under the reserve league, restricted to players between 17 and 19 years old.
|Season||Reserve Champions||Elite Champions|
|2004||Shanghai Shenhua||Not Held|
|2005||Not Held||Not Held|
|2006||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held|
|2007||Tianjin Teda||Not Held|
|2008||Wuhan Guanggu||Not Held|
|2009||Not Held||Not Held|
|2010||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held|
|2011||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held|
|2012||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held|
|2013||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held|
|2014||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Shanghai Shenhua|
|2015||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Hangzhou Greentown|
|2016||Shanghai SIPG||Jiangsu Suning|
|2017||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao|
|2018||Jiangsu Suning||Not Held|
|2019||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held|
|2020||Not Held||Not Held|
Youth development and Youth super league
Since the inception of the CSL, the CFA has required all of its clubs to operate youth development, yet it was not a strict criteria until 2018. In the CSL club criteria created in 2017, clubs who could not meet the youth development programme criteria will be relegated to lower leagues.
According to the CSL club criteria, the youth teams of CSL clubs must have their own training center, coaching staff, and medical group, and a minimum of 15% of club budgets must be invested into youth programmes. CSL clubs are required to have 5 youth level teams at ages U19, U17, U15, U14 and U13. Clubs must have youth academies and introduce grassroots football plans to cooperate with local football associations, school and social corporations.
In 2017 the Youth League system was officially rebranded as Youth Super League. YSL is open to all the youth teams of all professional clubs, selected football academies and local FA training teams in China. Since 2018 the U19 Youth Super league is played with two groups of 18, a total of 36 clubs. Clubs plays home and away season with promotion and relegation introduced. The U17 and U15 Youth Super Leagues play in six regional leagues with 76 and 77 teams respectively. The U14 and U13 Youth Super leagues play in five regional leagues with 40 and 45 teams respectively.
Besides the Youth Super League, there are also other tournaments for youth teams across China, including Youth Championship plays in pre-season, Youth FA cup runs during the Youth Super League fixture, and Youth Champions Cup plays in off-season.
|Season||U-19/19A Champions||U-19B Champions||U-19C Champions||U-18 Champions||U-17 Champions||U-16 Champions||U-15 Champions||U-14 Champions||U-13 Champions|
|2004||Shanghai Shenhua||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held|
|2005||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held|
|2006||Beijing Guoan||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held|
|2007||Chongqing Lifan||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held|
|2008||Beijing Guoan||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Changchun Yatai||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held|
|2009||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Changchun Yatai||Not Held||Wuhan FA||Not Held||Not Held|
|2010||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shanghai Luckystar||Not Held||Not Held|
|2011||Beijing Guoan||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Shanghai FA||Not Held||Hubei FA||Not Held||Shanghai Genbao|
|2012||Jiangsu FA||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Liaoning FA||Not Held||Guangzhou FA||Not Held||Shanghai Genbao|
|2013||Henan Jianye||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Jiangsu FA||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Not Held|
|2014||Shanghai Shenhua||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Guangzhou R&F||Not Held||Henan Jianye||Shanghai Genbao||Not Held|
|2015||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Guangdong FA||Not Held||Jiangsu FA||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan|
|2016||Shaanxi FA||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Jiangsu FA||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao|
|2017||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Changchun Yatai||Shandong Luneng Taishan|
|2018||Shanghai SIPG||Evergrande Football School||Not Held||Not Held||Shanghai Greenland Shenhua||Not Held||Hubei FA||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao|
|2019||Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao||Shanghai Greenland Shenhua||Fujian FA||Not Held||Shandong Luneng Taishan||Not Held||Shandong FA||Shandong FA||Shandong FA|
|2020||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held||Not Held|
- Football in China
- Chinese Football Association
- Chinese football champions
- Chinese football records
- Chinese FA Cup
- Chinese FA Super Cup
- Chinese Jia-A League
- China League One
- China League Two
- Chinese Champions League
- List of Chinese Super League referees
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