Yanbian Fude's fans
In a previous opinion article written by Yutang Sports last month “What role do CSL clubs play in their home cities? Case studies of Guangzhou Evergrande and Yanbian Fude” we discussed the characteristics of those two football clubs and their home cities. It was not hard to find that Yanbian Fude FC and Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, are unique in the Chinese Super League (CSL).
It is definitely a sad time for the city that their beloved club, Yanbian Fude, lost their position in the CSL for the 2018 season. However, it might not have been by accident that the club were relegated. Many sports industry practitioners have discussed this topic and found that a lot of causes led to this outcome, with the main consensus reached being “the lack of finances”.
As a football club in a small city, it was not easy to attract powerful enterprises to become club sponsors until 2015, when the Shenzhen-based insurance company, Shenzhen Fude Group came in to rescue them. With Fude Group’s great support, Yanbian Fude won promotion to the CSL in 2015, with the club securing its position for the 2016 season.
Unfortunately, these happy times did not last long. In June 2017, Fude Group announced that they would terminate their sponsorship of the team due to “policies within the insurance industry”. However, insiders have said that Yanbian Fude did not receive any money from the Group from the beginning of the 2016/17 season. The club barely survived the whole season with RMB 160 million, which is far less than the other CSL clubs. As insiders disclosed, this funding consisted of the RMB 70m dividend given to the club by the league, RMB 80m paid by Shenzhen FC when buying Yanbian Fude’s former captain Cui Min, as well as monetary funding from other small sponsors.
As a result, Yanbian Fude failed to make it through this tough situation. However, the journey of Yanbian football is far from over.
One of the reasons for their survival is that Yanbian Fude never lost its faith, even though it has to play in the second-tier league next season. Earlier this month, the team gathered in Duyun, Guizhou Province to kick off their winter training camp. But what is more inspiring is that both the club and Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture have kept building a “factory” for developing talented young footballers.
According to Yu Changlong, the General Manager of Yanbian Fude, the club has set up a complete youth training system consisting of 7 teams for young players of different ages. Other practitioners in the football youth training sector in Yanbian have also said that the authorities of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture have been offering financial support to teenagers to play football.
Additionally, more football pitches have been constructed in Yanbian and many schools now have football training every day. All of these reasons makes Yu believe that Yanbian football is moving in the right direction for the future.
Another piece of good news for Yanbian’s football fans is that another local professional football club, Yanbian Hunchun Beiguo Football Club has been established. This club was founded in early 2017, with investment from the Yanbian-based company Beiguo Group. Having made its debut in the third-tier of China’s football league, the 2017 Chinese Football Association Amateur League, the club won promotion to the second-tier league for next season, the Chinese Football Association Division Two League (C2L).
Prior to its new journey to the C2L, the club has been renamed as Yanbian Hunchun Beiguo Football Club with its home stadium confirmed for next season in Hunchun, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Earlier this month, Yanbian Hunchun Beiguo secured its new sponsor, Shenzhen TIMESTRONG Group. For the upcoming new season in the C2L, TIMESTRONG’s logo will feature prominently on the team shirt, based on a 2-year sponsorship deal signed by TIMESTRONG and Beiguo Group.
Alongside the aforementioned reasons above, there is one important support which Yanbian football will always maintain and that is the long-lasting love and loyalty of Yanbian residents. What really matters for them is not what result their beloved team gets, but enjoying the experience and atmosphere at every home match when the team plays.
As some Yanbian fans have told the media, they do not really care whether Yanbian’s football clubs play in the top-tier league or not. What they want is that their clubs can “survive”. In this current view, it is not just a dream.
Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick