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CSL: real prosperity or bogus boom?

Monday, 07 Mar 2016 18:00   |   By He Lanying

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It seems that China’s top football division, the Chinese Super League (CSL), has begun to show its commercial power after Ti’ao Power, a Chinese media group backed by Li Ruigang, spent a whopping RMB 8 billion for the broadcasting rights to the CSL.

Broadcasting

Li’s China Media Capital (CMC) and subsidiary Ti’ao Power paid RMB 8 billion ($1.3bn) last October to purchase the five-year broadcasting rights to CSL, a huge bet for Li but a good demonstration of CSL’s commercial value and great potential. It seems that this upward trend for the CSL is strengthened by the recent headline which saw Le Sports spend RMB 2.7 billion in acquiring the broadcasting rights to the Chinese league for two years beginning with the 2016-17 season. 

Although some people think that it is a sign of the beginning of a new era for CSL to have upgraded their service and viewing experience, the wide-reaching Chinese media centre, CCTV, have yet to decide whether to cover the games on their media platform while some local TV stations have decided to cut the games they will broadcast. 

As regards digital broadcasting, only one medium (Le Sports) has the exclusive rights to live stream the games instead of them being shared by several online media at the same time. Fans are beginning to complain about the limited access to games in China. Some experts have even made the negative forecast that CSL will be challenged to maintain its huge fan base in the future under the current irrational bidding mode with fewer companies able to compete financially for broadcasting rights. When the investment spree in the football field cools down, the CSL and Chinese football as a whole may taste the bitter fruits. 

Spending on players

Chinese football clubs have spent more than any other league during the winter transfer period. According to Transmarkt, Chinese club’s spending hit €400 million ($434 million) in the most recent January-February “transfer window”.

Clubs in China’s top football division, the Chinese Super League (CSL), spent €337 million ($366 million) in the recent transfer window, outstripping the world’s other soccer leagues.

The record-beating fees, paid out on player transfers during the two month window that ended at midnight on 26th February, are four times more than China’s previous record and nearly $100 million more than the English Premier League’s €253 million blowout. CSL clubs spent more than the other four major European leagues (Italy, Germany, France, and Spain) combined. 

Taking the second-tier League One soccer clubs into account, China spent nearly €400 million ($434 million) in this transfer window. Of that, nearly €290 million went to foreign players.

The recruitment of big-names is good to attract new fans and encourage “grassroots” interest in the sport to grow. However, it seems that Chinese clubs are more interested in making headlines and achieving immediate success rather than developing young home-grown talents. 

Proofread by John Devlin.

Tags: Letv Sports,digital media,CSL,TV broadcasting

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