Economic woes are taking a toll on China's professional football clubs, with 11 being disqualified for failing to pay wages and five closing shop on their own terms, including last season's Chinese Super League side Tianjin Tianhai.
Low attendance and extravagant contracts for overseas signings were already weighing heavily on the industry, even before the coronavirus outbreak forced it into total shutdown.
The suspended clubs include four from the second division and seven from the third tier. The five others decided to disband after struggling with financial problems.
Tianjin Tianhai withdrew from the league on May 12 amid heavy debts, only three seasons after Italian former World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro guided them into the Asian Champions League.
Previously known as Tianjin Quanjian, the club changed its name in January 2019 after former owner Shu Yuhui was arrested on corruption charges.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Chinese Football Association (CFA) head Chen Xuyuan as saying "clubs can barely achieve sustainable development. The owners have invested a lot but earn little back".
In an announcement on Saturday, the CFA said it hoped clubs could "pay attention to long-term planning and rational management" and protect the interests of players, coaches and staff.
The Chinese Super League will continue to comprise 16 teams, with formerly relegated Shenzhen FC reinstated to take Tianjin's place. It remains unclear when the postponed 2020 season will restart.
Australian Associated Press