The Chinese are coming and they mean business. While the Arabs are content to buying up football clubs in major European leagues and adding them to their portfolios, the Chinese want more; they are on a quest for total global domination and football is just a piece of the puzzle. The Chinese Government as a matter of policy wants to make China a major power in the most popular game in the world. They have invested heavily in new pitches in neighborhood and coaching programs in schools with the aim of producing the next generation of players capable of competing with their peers around the world. This strategy is similar to the one adopted by the Chinese that has led to their total domination of athletics with astonishing results in almost every discipline at the Olympics except football.
The Chinese are mad about football. Clubs like Manchester United have for long recognized the potential of the market and established themselves with frequent preseason tours. The Italian League have played their Super Cup in the Chinese capital. With active encouragement from the government by way of loans and guarantees, the Chinese are now buying major footballing institutions like the Milan Clubs Internazionale and A.C Milan. The domestic clubs have cash to splash with bottomless budgets aimed at attracting the very best legs in the world. It is one thing for an aging player like Carlos Tevez to go for a last payday,but to be made the highest paid player in the world is just stupendous. They are not just going after washed up footballers but young players about to move into their prime like Oscar who moved to China in a deal worth £60m, an amount simply too good to turn for all involved.
The Chinese are rumoured to be monitoring every major player in the game. From CR7 to Alexis Sanchez. No club in Europe can match their wages and it will not be long before players mandate their agents to get them deals in China. How much persuasion will it for John Terry or Wayne Rooney to hop on the plane? How long before Pepe signs that deal and takes Marcelo along with him? Lewandoski cannot resist the temptation. How do the Chinese celebrate birthdays Yaya Toure may wonder?
The future points to China. The infrastructure is in place already, the fans and the money. The major European clubs are already corporations run with business decisions trumping sporting ones. The clubs are already agitating for new league formats which will inevitably lead to more money. Preseason friendlies and Super Cup games are no longer going to be enough. The Europeans will have to share their games with the rest of the world. The proposal for playing league matches advanced by the former chief executive of the Premier League which was rejected and roundly condemned must be revisited. Teams will play at least one match each in China during the season from all the major leagues. The second step is to play Champions League games in China. The final stage is integration where the Champions League becomes a truly international competition admitting clubs from China and other parts of the world (that can afford a seat at the table).
Where that leaves domestic leagues? They will evolve and people will forever go to the grounds to watch their local teams. Difference now is that it is either you follow your team globally or support a more local club in your community. The simple truth is that the football clubs they used to call local are now owned by Americans, supported by Africans, Indians and financed by Arabs and Chinese money. That is why clubs like Arsenal charge the highest tickets in the world and attract tourists instead of locals. Football has gone global and the Chinese are now firmly in the driving seat.
You may point to similar but less successful outlandish approaches from Japan’s J-League or Indian Premier League and Australia’s A-League as indications that the Chinese experiment or flirtation with world football is not sustainable and that chances are that it would reach a burst at some point; well I am sorry to burst your bubble. The Asian power house have entered this venture with a different approach; first is the gradual purchase of major clubs in Europe, hence ensuring that Pre Season tours to China continues as usual, invariably driving tourism numbers up; starting from first signing on established and experienced campaigners from main stream Europe and South America; to buying some of the brighter prospects from Football’s epic centers and now progressing from the Grade B type European hot shots to the Cream of the crop with money not been an issue.
Sustainability is guaranteed by the government’s interest in continued funding, policy formulation and most importantly the sheer size of the audience only China is capable of providing. Once the Television companies are convinced the viewing numbers will continue to rise; the advertising agencies and corporations would continue to use the platforms available to push their products and If all fails; the Chinese can fall back on the established revenues their investments in European clubs guarantee.