Chinese Super League clubs' player recruitment plans for the coming season were thrown into disarray on Monday morning as the Chinese Football Association confirmed last week's reports it would limit the number of foreign players permitted to play in the 2017 season.
In a statement published on the federation's website, the CFA announced clubs would be permitted to field a maximum of three foreign players per game, with that quota including players from within the area governed by the Asian Football Confederation.
Previously, teams were allowed to field an Asian player in addition to three non-Asian foreigners, but that spot in the starting line-up will now be taken by a Chinese player under the age of 23. Clubs must also include a second Chinese player under 23 in their matchday squads.
"In order to realise 'The General Plan of Chinese Football Reform and Development' and to benefit the overall development of Chinese football and Chinese local players, to enhance the quality of the national team and to keep the professional league on a healthy, stable and consistent track, the CFA has adjusted the regulations of the 2017 Chinese Super League and the China League," the statement said.
The new regulations were drawn up during a meeting of the CFA's Professional Leagues Committee in Wuhan on Sunday before clubs were informed of the ruling. The current transfer window opened on Jan. 1 and many of the 16 Chinese Super League clubs have already signed their full quota of foreign players ahead of the league's opening round on March 4.
A number of transfers in the works, including Liaoning Whowin's move for Australia international James Holland, have been thrown into limbo following the announcement.
The statement warned that the federation will continue to monitor the transfer activities of Chinese clubs following a period that has seen the Asian transfer record smashed on five occasions over the last 12 months, with Oscar's £60 million move from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG setting a new benchman last month.
"The CFA will continue to release new rules and policies to regulate the irrational expense of the Chinese Super League and the China League, including the overpaying of domestic and international transfer fees and salaries in order to professionalise clubs' operations and management," said the statement.
The national association also stressed it would be drawing up new regulations relating to youth development as well as more closely overseeing the governance of clubs.
"The CFA will give clear and specific plans regarding the club youth system and infrastructure, will fight against fake contracts, signing fees and other illegal activities," the statement said.
"In order to create a stable and healthy long-term football environment, clubs -- based on their geographical background -- will have to develop a diverse shareholder structure and have a neutral club name; regulate their own financial systems; allow third party audits; form a standard financial protocol; form a healthy and independent operating system and develop self-regulation and management quality."