Fallen Asian giants Liaoning Hongyun bid farewell to their fans and apologized after they were among 11 clubs disqualified from Chinese soccer because of financial problems.
Chinese Super League club Tianjin Tianhai folded earlier this month and now Liaoning, a traditional powerhouse, have similarly dissolved.
Liaoning, based in Shenyang, were Asian champions in 1990, and dominated Chinese soccer from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, but in an arc that typifies the boom-and-bust nature of Chinese soccer, not helped by the COVID-19 pandemic, Liaoning have fallen on hard times and finished one place off the foot of the second division last season.
The Chinese Football Association threw them out of the professional leagues on Saturday, along with 10 other cash-strapped clubs who owed players wages, and in a subsequent statement the club said it would fold.
“The spirit of Liaoning football stands for self-improvement and never gives up,” Liaoning, founded in 1953, wrote on Sina Weibo. “The club has left, but the spirit of Liaoning football lives on. We sincerely thank all the fans from all walks of life who have supported and loved Liaoning Football Club for many years — the media, government leaders, sponsors and so on. We express deep regret and we apologize.”
Liaoning were ranked the 10th most valuable team in China by Forbes in 2015-2016.
In 2016 they spent 11.5 million euros (US$12.5 million at the current exchange rate) on Nigeria striker Anthony Ujah from Werder Bremen, but the club fell out of the top-tier Chinese Super League in 2017.
The players received no salaries last year, former Liaoning chairman Huang Yan admitted, and have launched legal action to recoup their earnings.
Shenzhen, coached by former AC Milan midfielder Roberto Donadoni, are to replace Tianjin in the Chinese Super League this season.
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