In as little as three years China has turned its floundering soccer league into the upstart of the world. Having been ravaged by corruption and unpaid wage scandals in the 2013-2014 season that saw stars such as Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka leave after a lone season, the current President has begun to turn over a new leaf. Not only are the club owners unafraid to splash ridiculous amounts of money, most notably currently paying a 33 year old Carlos Tevez a whopping £615,000 per week, but so is President Xi, who recently announced plans to double China’s sporting industry, with his main focus being soccer.
Such is the power of the sport, not only does the President support the lavish spending of the club owners, he plans to build 70,000 pitches, 20,000 academies and produce 100,000 players as a result by 2025. This is all tied into China’s future push for a World Cup host bid, which would see more than 500 million people tune into their televisions and pack expensive stadiums all around the country. Not only would this put China on the sporting map for the first time, it would also further entrench China as more than a financial superpower. However, the current trend shows something that has been seen as disruptive in English football.
Whereas pre-television deal soccer was a game of passion and small academies producing amazing talent, today’s game is about record breaking transfer deals and shirt sales. Where this has hurt countries on an international scale like England, whose youth academies are floundering even though the English Premier League had recently signed a TV deal worth a whopping £10.4 billion, domestically the league is the world’s most competitive. And this could be China’s plan, as recent approaches for huge household names have shown a desire to drive shirt sales as well as TV deals. This means China is ripe with potential for investment and growth in this industry.
But China’s sporting ambitions don’t stop there, the country is highly interested in the NBA as America has the world’s most dominant hoop scene. The love for sports exists, the money to spend is there, all that is needed now is time and some interest from abroad in helping shape this potential behemoth.