Returning to one of my long term themes in China – the development of domestic soccer.
Earlier this month, soccer returned to the priority list of China’s leaders. Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and friends held a meeting to discuss how to improve the still dismal state of Chinese soccer. Success in soccer is linked to the realization of the Chinese dream. Presumably, this means that lots of money will be thrown at the problem.
It will be great to have more qualified coaches, more pitches and more grass roots participation, but will it achieve the desired outcomes? Not without broader changes and, as with so many initiatives to improve an industry in China, greater foreign participation.
We need to view soccer as an industry, an industry trying to attract discretionary spending from Chinese consumers directly through tickets and merchandise, and indirectly by viewing TV channels that pay market rates to air games and buying products/services from sponsors of the teams.
We are a long way from having all the enablers necessary to justify this. Just contrast what people will pay to watch a movie in China to what they will pay to watch a soccer match. A Chinese movie fan will readily pay US$20 to watch the latest movie on an IMAX screen; but season tickets for a Chinese soccer team can still cost less than US$100.