When Chinese football clubs are competing in luring top international footballer and coaches with huge wages, the football’s world order is already changing. Earlier this year, Guangzhou Evergrande broken the Asian transfer record again by signing Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez for 42 million euros ($45.8 million). As a matter of fact, Robinho, Tim Cahill, Paulinho, Demba Ba and more are playing in China now. On the other hand, Chinese clubs actually outspent the Premier League in the last winter, there is an ongoing trend that China is luring top football players east and overtaking other major leagues to become the biggest non-European league, below are the main reasons:-
A huge market
Being the world’s most populous country with a population of over 1.38 billion, China has a great potential to grow its football industry to the world’s largest. Though China is now on par with the averages in Serie A and Ligue 1 in term of average attendance per game compared, things are changing quickly because Chinese Super League has just experienced a growth of 16.8% last year in term of overall attendance and is expecting the current season to be a better one. Some analysis believe that by 2018, the Chinese Super League will be the third most-watched soccer league in the world following the English Premier League and the Bundesliga (theguardian.com 2016).
Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao F.C. (Chinese: 广州恒大淘宝足球俱乐部) is the industry leader and most successful club with biggest spending, widest influence, most national members, strongest foreign players as well as richest club owners in China. Guangzhou Evergrande is jointly owned by Evergrande Real Estate Group and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba who purchased a 50% stake in the Club for a reported 1.2 billion yuan ($192m; £114m) two years ago (bbc.com 2014).
A football-loving President
For decades, football in China has been a source of national disgrace which is unacceptable to the government and its people. Now, China’s football-loving President Xi Jinping is targeting at changing China into a powerhouse of football game. To achieve this goal, the Chinese government are taking major actions: Football course is included in the mandatory curriculums at an increasing number of schools across China; a football program is being implemented aiming at develop football specialties at 20,000 primary and secondary schools by 2017, up from the current 5,000 schools; in addition, 200 high-level college teams will be formed to help build a talent pool for elite national teams according to the Education Ministry (chinadaily.com.cn ).
Sharply rising middle class
Attending the CSL matches seems to be more of a middle-class game in China considering the cost of match tickets and time it takes to travel to watch a game (Lee & Fort 2014). According to Credit Suisse report, counting from 2000 twice as many Chinese as Americans have joined the middle class making the middle class of China the biggest in the world, meanwhile China’s middle class is expanding more quickly than that of the U.S. middle class. The sharply rising middle class paves the way for CSL, already the Asia’s most watched football league, to move forward.
Football-loving President Xi
List of reference
bbc.com 2014 Alibaba buys half of Guangzhou Evergrande football club [online] accessed on 26th Mar 2016, available: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-27709641
theguardian.com 2016 Why China, not MLS, is luring stars away from Europe [online] accessed on 26th Mar 2016, available: http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/feb/01/why-china-not-mls-is-luring-stars-away-from-europe