Chinese Super League clubs are in a combined debt of more than £450 million, according to an audit by accounting firm PwC.
The report is likely to raise more questions about the sustainability of a league that has made headlines with its massive spending in recent seasons.
Players like Oscar, Hulk, Carlos Tevez, Alex Teixeira and Ramires have moved to the CSL in recent seasons for massive transfer fees.
Nigeria’s legion of John Obi Mikel, Odion Jude Ighalo, Obafemi Martins, Brown Ideye, Anthony Utah and Asisat Oshoala also made a switch to the Chinese League.
Those players have brought star power to the league, but the long-term viability of the CSL has been brought into question by the huge spending of many of the clubs’ owners.
Were any of those owners to walk away, it could trigger a widespread financial crisis in the Chinese top division.
According to the PwC report, CSL clubs’ total revenues reached £797 million last season. However, those clubs spent a total of £1.239 billion, meaning the amount of debt accrued by the 16 CSL clubs is up to £450 million.
Commercial sponsorships were the main source of revenue for CSL clubs last season, accounting for 64% of the total amount. That was followed by TV and broadcasting (14%), player transfers (11%), government subsidies (6%), gate and matchday (3%) and others (2%).
The Chinese Football Association has implemented several restrictions on CSL clubs buying foreign players in order to prevent a bubble burst, but the impact of these rules is still in question.