The Chinese Football Association (CFA) have announced a 100% tax on clubs signing overseas players in a move that could have a major impact on both the Chinese and international transfer markets.

Many Chinese clubs have spent huge amounts in the last few transfer windows on overseas players in an effort to boost the league’s profile and level, but this has had negative effects on China developing its own domestic talent.

In January, China restricted the number of overseas players that could appear in domestic games to a maximum of three, and there were calls from the government for Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs to curb their “irrational spending” on overseas imports.

This has led the CFA to introduce a new 100% tax on overseas transfers, which will take effect from the next transfer window. This will force clubs effectively to match the transfer fee they pay with an equivalent amount to be paid to the CFA’s development fund.


In a statement posted on the CFA’s official website, Chinese football’s governing body explained that the measures were introduced “to prevent professional football clubs from pursuing short-term results” and “high price signings driving up transfer fees”, in order to ensure “healthy and steady development of professional football leagues and curb the irrational spending on players” within the CSL.

Money paid into the CFA’s development fund will go towards “the development of youth football, supporting community football and public welfare projects involving football”. Another rule change underpins their desire to encourage development of younger players, as starting next season clubs must play the same amount of under-23 players in a match as foreign players.

The statement added that the rule will only apply to “loss-making” clubs, but all CSL clubs are a long way from being profitable at this stage. As a result, the measure is likely to have a major impact on CSL clubs’ transfer policy this summer. It may reduce the total spent, but it may not be the end of the astronomical transfer fees; according to expert Professor Simon Chadwick, the “100% tax on overseas players means that a Chinese club could well break the world transfer fee record this year”.