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The difficulties facing Chinese football ticket market

By Chen Yaping 05 Dec 2017

As we all know, a sporting event, as one of the most important factors in the sports industry, generates most of its revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships, along with broadcast rights, derivatives development, and food & beverage sales.

To some extent, attendance is the best proof of ticket sales. For example, on November 26, when Shanghai Greenland Shenhua won the title of the 2017 CFA Cup, there were 39,552 attendees watching the second-leg game of Shanghai Derby final, a remarkable increase from the 24,319 in the first leg.

However, seeing is not always believing. In the past several years, some Shenhua fans have been complaining at the fact that Shanghai International Port Group, title sponsor of Shanghai SIPG FC, always give free tickets to its employees to increase attendance of their home games.

What happened to Chinese football ticket market? What about the consumers?

According to official data by Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, people aged 18 to 25 have become the main consumer group for the 2017 Singles Day, the largest offline and online shopping day in China. At the same time, the sports tickets and sports training services take up 40% and 33% of their total expenditures during the shopping holiday, respectively.

Obviously, young consumers, preferring customized services, would like to spend money and time in improving their sports-related experiences.

That’s why this age group has also become the mainstay of the current fan base of the Chinese Super League (CSL). As Chinese sports media Sike Sports revealed, you can pay 100 yuan (about 15.1 US dollars) to watch a 90-minute home game of most CSL clubs except Shanghai Shenhua, whose minimum fare is 200 yuan. In other words, most wage-earning Chinese can afford a 100-yuan ticket to watch their favorite clubs at the scene.

Nevertheless, the survey also shows that 40.48% of respondents think the CSL tickets are ‘a little bit expensive’, while 6.15% of them feel they are ‘very expensive’.

Let’s see why it is the case. First of all, since young Chinese have to pay for their food, house rent and hanging out with friends, they may not have too much money to spend on watching games.

Second, young CSL fans may not be able to afford the additional charges to watch a game. Let’s assume there’s a Liaoning Whowin fan who lives 100km from the home field. That means he has to drive more than one hour to watch a home match, which means approximately a 500-yuan expense in transportation and food. If he wants to watch all 2 or 3 home games every month, then he has to pay about 1,000 to 1,500 yuan, accounting for 25% to 33% of a Liaoning native’s average monthly salary of 4,654 yuan.

Third, on-the-field performance may also be an important factor. According to an official report, China’s wealthiest and most successful club, Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Football Club, earned 47.72 million yuan in the 2016 fiscal year, accounting for 8.51% of the 560.9-million-yuan in total revenue. Considering the club’s unsatisfactory performance on the court of the 2017 AFC Champions League, this is a dramatic decrease from 210 million yuan in the previous season, which represents 55.24% of the 2015 year’s revenue.

In reality, compared to other sports leagues, Chinese football has a long way to go in order to grow its ticket sales, especially to younger audiences. The UFC tells a totally different story in the same city of Shanghai Derby, where Fight Night kicked off on November 25, which drew in 15,128 fans to the 18,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Arena. Even more noteworthy is that the organizers did not need to give free tickets to ensure a satisfactory attendance; the strong numbers were mainly influenced by the event’s international presence, big signings and remarkable stage effect.

Although the Chinese top-flight soccer league sold its five-year (2016-2020) television rights for a record 8 billion yuan in 2015, some experts claim that the league has to do more to persuade Chinese fans to accept the pay-per-view model as well as the high ticket-related charges. This is because a whopping broadcast deal may trigger a boom in the international market, while the willingness of the fans to pay for watching games reflects a league’s commercial value in a sustainable way.

Proofread by William Logsdon 

Tags: ticketing
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