• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 3rd January

Happy New Year and welcome to the first edition of this year’s China Sports Business Weekly. First of all, we would like to share our condolences with David Stern’s family after he passed away this week, his impact on the sport in China will never be forgotten.


Following the Christmas and New Year break, this week focuses on a groundbreaking change that could see the end of foreign stars playing football in China, as well as the ten cities for the 2023 Asian Cup being announced.


This week’s From The Top interview is with Ryan Armstrong, Senior Brand Manager at the England Football Association, where he discussed how to leverage digital globally, approach to China, driving broadcast viewership, and learning from competitors.


Top Industry News:

1) Chinese Super League Salary Cap Arrives In a groundbreaking announcement, CSL teams will not be able to spend more than $160m for the 2020 season. This includes a cap on foreign players’ salaries at around $3.3m as well as Chinese national team players being limited to a maximum of $1.7m. Read more on SportBusiness English and Sohu Chinese


Mailman Take: after years of spending beyond what was available, the league has come down with a new salary cap to level the playing field and restrict spending. The league ownership recently changed to give teams more power in decisions, whilst this announcement seems to be the end for marquee foreign signings.


2) China's Top Ten Athletes in 2019 Announced Xinhua News Agency's sports department named the top Chinese athletes with teams/individuals from volleyball, ice skating and athletics taking the top 3 positions. The women’s volleyball took first place after successfully defending their world title, whilst famous swimmer Sun Yang took fifth place. Read more on China Daily English and Xinhua Chinese. 3) The Ten Cities for the 2023 Asian Cup Named China has announced the ten cities that will host the Asian Football Confederation’s Asian Cup in 2023. Beijing will be the lead city, whilst matches will also take place in Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Jian, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Suzhou would stage matches. Read more on Inside World Football English and Sina Chinese


Mailman Take: This tournament will now take place after the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup in China in 2021 which will serve as a test case to prove that China has what it takes to ultimately host a FIFA World Cup. The infrastructure is ready and the teams will be prepared, the biggest challenge will be getting China to fill the stadiums.

4) Sneaker Con Returns to China for the Second Time Sneaker Con closed out 2019 with its second event in China, this time in Guangzhou. After the first event in Shanghai, the event returned with an unmatched assortment of the world’s most coveted and sought-after sneakers is a full-fledged experience for sneakerheads from around the country. Read more on Sneaker News English and Sina Chinese 5) Arsenal Back on Chinese TV The Premier League side are back again in China, with their millions of fans in this market able to watch their team through PP Sports. After the incident with Mesut Ozil which resulted in a temporary shutdown of their fixtures being broadcast, normality has been resumed. Read more on WSJ English


6) Li Tie the New China Head Coach

The Chinese Football Association has announced that the former China and Everton midfielder Li Tie has become the new coach of the men’s team. He featured for his country 92 times, including the 2002 FIFA World Cup and has coached both Wuhan Zall and Hebei CFFC. Read more on NYT English and Sina Chinese


From The Top


1) How does The Emirates FA Cup leverage digital globally?

Our digital media clip rights allow us to share short-form content in the moment and drive localised conversations with fans globally in real-time. This is a fairly unique position within the global sports media market and means we can build local communities who can easily engage in content at a time and in language that is relevant to them.


2) What uniqueness will The Emirates FA Cup look to leverage in China?

The Emirates FA Cup is looking to build long term fandom and therefore, we are keen to use live content to educate new fans as well as develop a deeper relationship with existing football fans. Utilising live content on social is unique for the UK football in China so will allow fans to consume more near live sport than ever before across social as well as build interest in live broadcast content.


3) How will The Emirates FA Cup approach China digital differently this year?

We have never had a targeted strategy for China so this is a really good opportunity for us to tailor our content to the audience and learn more about football fans in the market. We aim to work closely with the broadcaster partner (PP Sports), social media platforms (Weibo & ByteDance) and potential commercial partners to help grow interest in the competition.


4) How will you aim to use China digital to drive broadcast viewership?

Our role in China is to educate and grow interest in the competition which we hope will, in turn, drive fans towards watching live broadcast fixtures. By supporting PP Sports with broader content around The Emirates FA Cup, we aim to create more engaged audiences who will be seeking more long-term content across the season.


5) What can you learn from your competitors online in China?

There are a lot of rights holders across the broader sports industry who are already doing some fantastic work in China. It is clear to see how quickly interest in football has grown in the country and how this has been supported by well delivered digital content strategies. When you add in greater access to live broadcasts as well as a growing demand for live international matches such as the Asia Trophy, you can see how much opportunity for growth there is. We can take a huge amount of learning and understanding from how rights holders have grown engaged fan bases in order to support our own strategic thinking and long term planning and we hope to equally contribute to the continued growth of football in China.


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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and consultancy. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here

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