New stadiums, loads of disillusioned Chinese football


Brand new, modern… but almost useless? Stadiums built for the Asian Cup could become empty and become a burden for China after Chinese football’s abrupt withdrawal from the organization, which exacerbated its crisis.

Ten Chinese cities have spent billions of euros building eight new enclosures and renovating the other two for the event, which is scheduled for summer 2023. Most will be completed by the end of the year.

The Asian Cup (…) was only the beginning of the candidacy for a World Cup organisation.He told AFP Simon Chadwick, director of the Eurasian Sports Center at EM Lyon Business School.

But China’s football ambitions seem to have been shattered.

In Beijing, large billboards promoting the Asian Cup still surround the main construction site of the Workers’ Stadium.

This historic enclosure was demolished to be rebuilt. Cost of facelift: 460 million Euros.

Asian Cup or not, we will finish this stadium as planned.A worker told AFP.

Without the events, China has no other opportunity to bid for a major football competition in the next decade.

And Chinese football is in crisis.

Top players leave clubs as salaries drop. And teams are seeing bleeding from foreign stars and coaches fed up with the anti-Covid restrictions.

China has turned to building infrastructure such as football stadiums to support its economy affected by the epidemic.

Some of these venues, however, are the futuristic Egret Stadium (“Egret Stadium“) were built in the coastal city of Xiamen (east), cities that do not have the best clubs to use them.

white elephants

Stadiums in citiesrelatively small” Where “already equipped“, like many major Chinese metropolises, “likely to be white elephants“believes William Bi, a Beijing-based sports consultant.”And with the economy collapsing, I wouldn’t be surprised if they spend millions of dollars building clubs that deserve a stadium this size.

Period “White elephant“It refers to infrastructure that is built at great expense but is little used and therefore becomes a financial burden for local communities.

Most of the new stadiums are designed as complexes that can also host concerts. However, the anti-Covid restrictions have already dealt a serious blow to the entertainment industry.

This construction spree started when real estate agents started buying stocks in clubs.

A dozen of the 18 major league teams are now funded by real estate groups.

But the industry is currently in crisis and many developers are crippled by debt.

In Canton (south), the town hall seized the place of the stadium for 1.7 billion euros from the organizer with great difficulty in Evergrande, the owner of Guangzhou Evergrande (section 1).

The enclosure would initially be shaped like a lotus flower and house 100,000 people, but ambitions should be revised downward.

Investing in football was an effective way for organizers to gain political supportAccording to Simon Chadwick, because the state has been very proactive in the development of the round ball.

But all this turbulence has apparently broken that link between football and real estate. This raises questions about the future of Chinese football.

damaged image

President Xi Jinping’s country is a “strength“Football that could organize and even win a World Cup has clearly faded in recent years.

The country of choice for sports competitions in recent years (F1, 2008 Summer Olympics, athletics, basketball world championships), China is also seeing its ambitions in this field questioned by the Covid strategy.

With the exception of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, held in February-March in a health balloon, China has canceled or postponed nearly all international sporting events it would host since the start of the epidemic.

The Asian Games in Hangzhou (east) have been postponed. Uncertainty continues in the World Football Clubs Cup, which has not been officially canceled but will be held by the country in 2021.

China had a reputation as a country you could trust to host a sporting event. But he was injured“, believes William Bi.

Judge Bo Li, professor of sports management at the University of Miami (United States), said President Xi’s passion for football also fell against the background of economic concerns.

Hosting a World Cup is no longer a top priority for Chinese leaders today‘ he underlines.