Business opportunities for football development in China are on the rise

Business opportunities for football development in China are on the rise
With a National Football Plan that aims to have 50 million players, 70,000 pitches and 50,000 coaches by 2020, substantial investments are shaping the football landscape and creating opportunities for businesses in football development in China.

In recent years, the buzz around football in China has exploded with a continuous increase in investment and new opportunities for business in various sectors within the football industry. With this massive economic boost in the industry, it is a great time for companies to get involved and take advantage of the increased enthusiasm of Chinese audiences that are willing to spend money on everything from apparel to coaching as well as regional and local governments investing on infrastructure and facilities with the long term goal to make China become a global football superpower.

This great influx of funds has come as a result of President Xi Jinping’s Football Reform Plan which sets the target of having a competitive national football team capable of fighting for international titles for which growing a nationwide youth academy system to produce world class players is essential. This plan, which started in 2015, came at a time when there was already an increased interest of Chinese audiences with the first FIFA World Cup hosted in Asia – Japan and Korea - in 2002 and the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup – hosted in China - and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Statistics show the average attendance at CSL football matches went up from 10,000 to just fewer than 25,000, an increase of almost 150% over the last 10 years. This growth experienced in elite professional football in the nation is now giving way to unprecedented plans in amateur football and grassroots with the Reform Plan accelerating the “natural” course of football development.

In this environment, football apparel is one of the sectors which is likely to see the highest growth. With football now on the curriculum, millions of school children will have the need for equipment such as trainers, boots, tops and bottoms, shin pads and bibs. Multinational brands such as Nike anticipated the rise of football in China and signed a 10-year-deal with the Chinese Super League to supply kits to every team in the CSL top division. However, multiple brands including Anta, Peak, Li Ning, Xtep have entered the market and are challenging global giants such as Nike and Adidas. According to Ibis World, 434 million are playing sports on a regular basis in China and the sports market will reach $193.8 billion in 2020 and $470.3 billion in 2025 with approximately two thirds of the pie taken by sports goods.

To service the increasingly higher number of footballers, more facilities are being built at an exponentially faster pace. The Reform Plan aims to have 20,000 training centres and a further 70,000 pitches by 2020 to provide a service for an estimated 50 million players, of which 30 million will be still in schools. This means that everything from cement and Astroturf suppliers to goal and fence makers are in great demand for billions of pounds worth of material and skilled labour needed to make these centres.

One enormous change coming from this Football Reform Plan is the inclusion of football in the school curriculum. This means that the need for experienced and skilled coaches is a top priority but, with over 800,000 primary schools in China and many hundreds of thousands more secondary schools, the talent pool required to fill this requires coaches and teachers to come over to China from all four corners of the globe. Whether they are coaching children or coaching coaches there is still a massive demand for experienced coaches of different levels to give China the best chance of nurturing a future superstar.

In many aspects China's Football Reform Plan is creating a multitude of businesses that can support its fulfilment with areas such as apparel, coaching, training equipment, architects and consultants, infrastructure and construction firms, sports medicine specialists, digital media, and technology and facility management as all set to benefit. The three wishes of President Xi Jinping to qualify for another World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup all within the next 30 years means that the funding and investment for these projects must be made as soon as possible. This creates a level and scale of demand that is unprecedented and the means to meet this are unquestionable so the opportunities for business are on the rise.

If you want to find more about business opportunities in China, please visit the Soccerex China event page.

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