Football Tribe SEA Editor
Chinese club Sichuan Jiuniu, partially-owned by the City Football Group, has found themselves promoted to the 2020 Chinese League One after the Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced the final participant list of the second-tier league on Sunday.
Suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the buildup towards the 2020 football season in China was rocked by the disestablishments of a number of clubs within the region, mostly due to financial reasons. While most of these defunct clubs came from the lower leagues, the top two leagues were not spared from this phenomena, with Tianjin Tianhai of the Chinese Super League announcing their disbandment just earlier this month. The Chinese League One also saw their participants disappearing left, right, and center during the off-season, with Guangdong South China Tiger, Sichuan Longfor, Liaoning FC, and Shanghai Shenxin announcing their exit from the league, the latter two having had stints in the top flight before. And while Liaoning FC still exists in a way after merging with newly promoted Shenyang Urban FC and thus becoming Liaoning Shenyang Urban FC, the other three clubs were not that fortunate as they were subsequently dissolved.
The 2020 Chinese League One season was expanded from 16 teams to 18 teams this season, however the four clubs’ decision to leave the league meant that the new season will start with 14 teams instead. Determined to keep the upcoming league format intact, the CFA decided to promoted an additional four teams from the third-tier Chinese League two, accompanying the aforementioned Liaoning Shenyang Urban FC, Chengdu Better City, and Taizhou Yuanda. The four clubs were Suzhou Dongwu, Jiangxi Liansheng, Sichuan Jiuniu, and Kunshan FC. Liansheng are making their return to the Chinese League One after a 5-year exile, while the other three teams are making their debut in the competition.
Founded in 2006 in the city of Chengdu to replace the disbanded Sichuan Guancheng, Sichuan Jiuniu stole worldwide attention after 28% of their shares were purchased by the City Football Group in February 2019. Wealthy owners of Premier League giants Manchester City, the CFG’s portfolio also include A-League side Melbourne City, Major League Soccer team New York City FC, J.League 1 side Yokohama F. Marinos, Girona CF of Spain and Uruguay’s Club Atletico Torque, the latter being subsequently renamed and rebranded as Montevideo City Torque. After purchasing a stake in Sichuan Jiuniu, the CFG subsequently added Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC and Belgian First Division B outfit Lommel SK into their portfolio.
Sichuan Jiuniu’s maiden season under the CFG’s partial ownership – they were sharing the club alongside majority shareholder China Sports Capital and minority shareholder UBTECH Robotics – saw them finish 8th in the 2019 Chinese League Two overall table, however the changes to the Chinese football pyramid brought on by the 2020 off-season disbandment of a number of clubs meant that Sichuan Jiuniu received that golden ticket to the 2020 Chinese League One season. And with Chinese League One clubs being allowed to use the service of foreign players within their squads, it is interesting to see whether the CFG would flex their financial muscle in bringing quality players to Sichuan Jiuniu who would bring the club to the promised land that is the Chinese Super League.