By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Chinese Football Association said on Monday it "regrets" the decision by Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC to cease operations but that it will continue to seek to develop the game in the world's most populous nation.
The Suning Group, who bought Jiangsu in late 2015 and who also own Italian league leaders Inter Milan, announced on Sunday the Chinese champions would cease operations with immediate effect while expressing hope new backers could be found.
"The Chinese Football Association regrets the suspension of operations issued by Jiangsu FC but respects the club's decision," the national body said in a statement.
"Jiangsu football has had a glorious history and, since its takeover in 2015, the Suning Group has contributed tremendously to football development in general. The Chinese Football Association appreciates this effort.
"The Chinese Football Association will work towards implementing the China Football Reform and Development Plan to continue its reforms, with an emphasis on strengthening youth development, improving the professional league and uniting all the forces around Chinese football to keep fighting for Chinese football."
The announcement came with the new Chinese Super League season expected to start next month and four months after the Cosmin Olaroiu-coached club defeated eight-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande in a playoff to claim their first-ever league title.
Suning's decision affects all of the company's China-based clubs, including the Jiangsu Suning Women's team, who won the Chinese Women's Super League title in 2019.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge)