American football in China
Starting from scratch in China
China might not be the market that most sports fans associate with American football. The game is seen as very complex by Chinese fans and kids don’t play it in China. Moreover, the term ‘football’ here mostly equals to European soccer.
Still, there are great opportunities for American football market in China. The NBA can be a model as the basket-ball league has done a superb job in China through creating international partnerships with numerous global brands and media partners. American football in China so far lacks an ambassador – like Yao Ming for NBA – to attract Chinese fan audience.
To tackle the popularity problem seems complicated. In August 2012, the Arena Football League announced a new project into China, originally known as the China Arena Football, AFL China. AFL coaches and trainers went to China to develop the sport and design first squads made up of Chinese and American players with the goal of starting an official Chinese league.
American football institutions have strategies in China
According to RichardYoung, managing director of NFL China, the American football’s fan base has grown over 462 percent in the last 4 years reaching 14 million people in China and this growth is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
“NFL now is mainly focusing on 19 first-tier cities in China to begin with the promotion of the sport, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, all of which are comparatively more international” he said. “To better cater to the increasing demand of the Chinese audiences, NFL games will be aired across more than 20 regional channels this year, reaching more than 96 million unique viewers and five nationwide online broadcasters including PPTV, LeTV, iQiyi, Sina Sports and QQ Sports, as well as NFL Game Pass.”
To increase the influence of American football in China, league is in the need of cooperation with local governments. Stadiums need to be built. American football league spent three years working with China’s government and the Chinese Rugby Football Association to form a league set to debut in 2015. And it turns out that it’s also what the Chinese government wants.
The China American Football League will have 6 teams to play indoors in China
China American Football League franchise owners invested $10 million to start a new professional league.
The China American Football League will kick off its professional season in September 2015, a month after the AFL season ends in the U.S, and will have six to eight teams based in major cities in China. Games will be played indoors. The league is expected to have 30 teams in five years. Franchises will be sold for $10 million apiece, which also gives owners a portion of the television licensing rights.
China American Football League, which will be played indoor as arena football rather than outside like in most NFL stadiums, will feature teams of 20 players, eight of whom will initially be foreign. Players will be paid $3,000 to $5,000 a game.
As Bloomberg News noted, the National Football League has sponsored a league of 36 flag football teams at Chinese universities since its office opened in 2007.
Moreover, the NFL is beginning to scout for players around the world, and its teams are eager to discover talent in China.The organizers have spent two years training players at Chinese universities, providing them with everything from coaching expertise to equipment to prepare for its 2015 China debut.
Growing interest in American football has been a gradual process. Chinese sports fans seemed open to the idea of American football, which is called olive ball in Chinese.Some of them think ‘The athletes in the game are very strong and the game is always fierce and hot-blooded.’‘ American football is a sport that would boys into men. ’‘Chinese fans want to be more Americanized. They love what Americans have and football is something they’re going to love,’
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