Over the past 15 to 20 years football has changed dramatically. It used to be a Saturday afternoon's entertainment for the working class man and clubs owned by passionate individuals. It has changed from a working man’s sport with men coming out each weekend to support their local team, to a game now watched by millions of people from all around the world.
Football is now big business, the ownership of the clubs and fan base is truly global. More and more money is being pumped into the game; it was only in 1979 that Trevor Francis was bought by Nottingham Forrest from Birmingham City for a then record transfer fee of £1 million. Premier League tickets have risen by a staggering amount over the last few decades. The price of a season ticket at Arsenal is now £2,000, which equates to £1.17 per minute of football watched; a cost out of reach of the average worker. Therefore, citizens of countries far and wide look to invest in the British football system whilst creating one of their own. Football in China is on the rise with the development of the Super League.
The type of people attending these games is changing because of the cost. Moreover, the people who own the clubs has changed due to the same reason. In the season 2015/16, there were only seven clubs in the Premier league owned by British people. Foreign investment has dominated the Premier League in recent years. Manchester City’s owners recently sold a minority 13% stake in the club to Chinese investors for £265 million, the same amount which they bought the whole club for six years earlier thus valuing the club at over £2 billion.
The massive success of the Premier League has not gone unnoticed and China are trying to replicate the model. Over the past 15 to 20 years vast sums of money have been invested into the Chinese football system. The Chinese Football Association Football League was established in 2004. President Xi Jinping wants to create “the biggest sporting economy in the world” and by 2050 for China to be a world football super power. Not only is China investing in the top end of the game with the setup of the ‘Super League’ but they are also building from the bottom up and are investing in the grass roots of the game. One of the short to medium term aims of this policy is to build a strong international football team with the ultimate objective of hosting and winning the football world cup. However, the Chinese still have a very long way to go and will need to invest billions of pounds if they are to build a football league to get anywhere close to challenging the Premier League and winning the world cup – the national team is currently ranked 81st in the world.
If the Chinese hope to succeed with their new Super League they will need to spend big money on attracting the top players from around the world to play in China. It is interesting to note that more and more Chinese are investing in the English football league; as at August 2016, four of the 42 clubs in the Premier League and Championship had differing degrees of Chinese ownership compared to no Chinese investment a decade ago. If Chinese Super League could promote their own league in the right way and get these investors to invest in Chinese football rather than leagues in other countries, this league has enormous potential.