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(Reuters) - China's top sports governing body announced plans on Thursday to cap the spending of its leading soccer clubs, accusing them of "burning money" to enlist foreign players while neglecting development of young talent at home.
The enormous spending power of Chinese Super League clubs has alarmed administrators in the European game with Arsene Wenger, of Arsenal, and Chelsea's Antonio Conte among those managers expressing concerns about players being lured away from the Premier League by the riches on offer.
An unnamed spokesperson from China's General Administration of Sport described the excess of some Chinese clubs as "a grave phenomenon" in a question and answer session on the organisation's official website on Thursday.
The rebuke to the clubs from the government agency responsible for sports in China comes after a series of record-breaking signings over the past year with Chinese companies cashing in on the swiftly-growing sports sector.
Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG bought Brazilian midfielder Oscar from Chelsea for 60 million euros ($63 million) while their rivals Shanghai Shenhua signed Argentine striker Carlos Tevez for a reported 84 million euros.
But the rapid development of soccer in China has drawn the attention of society to some problems, said the spokesperson.
They included "large scale overseas acquisitions, the grave phenomenon of clubs burning money, salaries that are too high for foreign players, not attaching importance to youth training, and only emphasising short-term achievements and neglecting long-term development."
The Administration, he added, would "strengthen examination and supervision of clubs' financial affairs, progressively control clubs' expenditures on first team players and ensure favourable financial conditions."
It would also "set a cap for clubs' expenditures for buying players, and inhibit unreasonable investment."
The Administration would, he added, "combat signing bonuses, shadow contracts, and other violations, and sternly handle clubs, players or brokers that demand or seek signing bonuses."
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Reporting by Ian Chadband