The grand China Football Summit 2016 was hosted in Shanghai’s Chongming Convention Centre, May 26-27th, organised by Pioneer Sports and co-organised by Chongming Sports Bureau.
In recent times, China has started paying a great deal of attention to the development of football (soccer) in the country, with the aim being to revive football as a sports powerhouse.
Chongming boasts its own advantages in terms of its ecological environment, with almost every school owning excellent football pitches and the evolution of Grassroots football has been witnessed at Genbao Football Academy.
Genbao Football Academy took up its quarters in Chongming in 2000 and now boasts 6 players playing in the China National Team, including Wu Lei, and 40 players now playing in the CSL; quite a few footballers started their training in Chongming and then played at teams all over China and indeed the world. These footballers have help lay a stable foundation for the development of football in the Chongming region.
The success of the China Football Summit (CFS) 2016 would not have been possible without the great support of sponsors: PANINI S.P.A, DODICI, Shenzhen Sage Opto Co., Ltd and Chateau Mirefleurs.
As Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Football Association, Mr. Shen Lei delivered the opening address, during which he mentioned that Shanghai holds a strategic position in China’s football industry, with an indelible contribution to the sport’s history in the country, where a lot of outstanding coaches have sprung up, like Xu Genbao, and football players like Wu Lei. And now Shanghai has two teams in China’s top league: Shanghai SIPG FC and Shanghai Shenhua FC. Shanghai still needs future efforts, while Chongming, as a football county, sets a great example.
In the first session, Mr. Gong Yaofei, Party Secretary of Chongming Sports Bureau, delivered a lecture about ‘The exploration and practice with building a football county’. Through the Bureau’s research, it had determined that based on Chongming’s established strength in developing football, the local government and market should play its part in popularising campus football, developing grass roots football, propelling the industry, co-building a football region and offering experiences that can be generalised and copied for Shanghai’s own footballing reform and development, especially in terms of nurturing youth players. The aim being to propel Shanghai’s football industry to reach new heights. In July 2015, the plan to make Chongming a football county was initiated.
Mr. Xu Genbao – who is well known across China as having made great contributions to the development of football and youth training – shared:
Youth football talent nurturing: a model set by Chongming and professionalisation of its players.
About setting up the Chongming Model, he said:
To build up a sophisticated academy is not as simple as pooling some money, buying a piece of pitch and erecting buildings. We have a catchword: sharpen a sword for 10 years. However, it is always easier said than done. Many people laughed at me, even myself had no absolute confidence I could do it. Many fellows in Shanghai didn’t even know what Genbao Football Academy was doing these years. Our goal is to create a ‘Manchester United FC in China’ and as many football stars as possible. Our trait is always sticking to the techniques.
Despite being more than 70 years old, Xu Genbao’s love of Chinese football and the spirit of craftsmanship touched the hearts of everyone in the audience.
Back in September 2015, Alibaba made their entry to the sports industry. Daniel Tao, Sports Events Operation Director of Alisports, gave an excellent address at the conference, during which he confirmed that Alibaba had signed an 8-year title sponsorship contract with the FIFA World Cup; a highlight of the China Football Summit 2016. He also advised that the company’s vision is to create a foundation in the Chinese sports industry; and a foundation requires much fundamental work. When talking about the strength of Alisports, Mr. Tao unveiled that it was the digital marketing of Alibaba that FIFA appreciates.
On the morning of May 26, there was a panel session discussing the experiences of China’s top youth training institutions, in which David Lopez, Executive Vice President and Managing Director for Asia SOXNA; Kevin Anderson, Technical Director R&F Soccer School; and Cliff Hegan, COO of ONexperience as moderator gave their insights. When asked what factors are impeding the progress of football in the country, especially in terms of youth players when compared to Japan and Korea, one impressive answer was from Mr. Lopez, who advised that: “China lacks proper competition systems” but also noted that “some cities did well though, such as Shanghai. But it’s far from enough. Especially according to our scheme, it still takes more efforts and time to accomplish; we still need thousands of good coaches in China. So in the first place we have to get coaches well trained”. Kevin Anderson added that: “The cultivation of a football culture is also necessary. With youngsters across Europe and South America having grown up surrounded by footballing influences. Their fathers, and even mothers, playing football, and watching games with them, so they are drowned in a football culture”.
Several English Premier League (EPL) clubs attended China Football Summit 2016, such as Liverpool FC, Manchester United FC, Arsenal FC, Manchester City FC, Norwich City FC and Southampton FC. On the afternoon of May 26, a panel session themed ‘A new era for Premier League in China, featured participants Mr. Yu Lingxiao, Vice President of Super Sports; Mr. Jason Zhen, Vice President of IDG Capital; and Mr. Andrew Collins, CEO of Mailman Group. In the beginning, Mr. Collins raised a question for Mr. Yu Lingxiao about the status quo and vision for the future of Super Sports.
Mr. Yu answered:
For any good content, even top leagues like the English Premier League, a good promotion among audiences and end users is very necessary. Our broadcast of Premier League content in mainland China is most diverse in terms of channels and methods. Super Sports serves fans and the most important is to serve fans, with no doubt.
When asked about the support granted to Super Sports by IDG to buy EPL media rights, Mr. Jason Zhen said:
Engaging with Super Sports is of foresight through which we can seize the pulse of China sports and entertainment industry. We formerly tried to get hold of that through looking at the trend of the development of American and European professional sporting events. On another note, we are also looking at good teams and the value they can generate. We got to Premier League media rights in China in 2007 and started to invest in Super Sports in 2010, our investment pattern is relatively simple. There’s huge potential and possibility for paid contents in China while now most of them are free.
When interviewed about the significance of playing host to the China Football Summit 2016, David Zhang said:
Pioneer Sports aims to erect a mutually networking platform where businesses can interact, communicate and share. Pioneer Sports is a professional sports services and strategic management company. We are committed to building a platform for Chinese football, both here and abroad, while providing football, basketball and other sports-related strategies, technical consulting services, operations for clubs and organizations. We are also working on the popularisation and development of Chinese youth football, and actively organise public or semi-public football activities in partnership with regional football authorities.
On May 27, many of the sector’s elite were in attendance, including: Mr. Victoriano Melero, Head of the President Cabinet and Deputy CEO of Fédération Française de Football; Mr. Romuald Nguyen, Head of institutional and international affairs of Fédération Française de Football; Richard Lamb, International Business Director of FC Internazionale Milano; and Andrew Markham, Head of Global Partnership Sales, Liverpool FC. They had a great communication with attendees and shared their proposals to China’s football development. Mr. Nguyen spoke of France hosting over 1 million matches every year, which is the equivalent of 2 games every minute. France has 2.2 million registered memberships with 5 million players in total, 27,000 courts and 102 competition areas. All of the matches are operated by 400,000 volunteers from all over the globe. France is the only nation that has the record of winning 5 major world men’s football events: Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, U17, FIFA Confederations Cup and U20. During talks with the Party Secretary of Chongming Sports Bureau, the Fédération Française de Football expressed their resolution to support Chinese football, expecting more partners to be involved, including exchange visits of football players, coach training and imparting training programs.
Mr. Andrew Markham lectured on the topic of ‘Liverpool FC in China: Building Relationships with Partners and Fans’. He advised:
Liverpool is part of the world [footballing] community, and [has] won 5 UEFA championships. Besides our success in football games, we also have created a strong fan base. We have many fans in China and Asia. We are now building more football pitches and our newly built-out, iconic Anfield Stadium can now accommodate an additional 4,500 people. Our core philosophy is ambition, commitment, dignity and unity.
The next panel session discussed digital media and football marketing, with panellists: Mr. Tian Hua, Deputy Editor-in-Chief; Marko Kasic, Founder and CEO of FundLife International; Lewis Hannam, Managing Director of Red Lantern Digital Media; and Li Jiang, Co-founder and Executive Director of Yutang Sports. Each of being an outstanding figure in their own areas, Mr. Li Jiang asked Mr. Tian Hua how the integration of television and new media can facilitate the advance of football industry. Tian Hua answered:
Netease is working toward mobile terminals. Every day 30 million people view Netease content via mobile terminals. And television and new media must integrate. Television is high definition with the feeling of immersion; new media is more convenient, portable and its information is more first-hand.
When asked about how sponsors could better engage with CSL audiences, Mr. Lewis Hannam answered:
Traditional media has its limits while new media doesn’t. From my point of view on CSL, LeSports is a very good beginning. Because it makes more people access to the games anytime and anywhere. With regards to digital media strategy, there is a lot to learn from Premier League for CSL and CSL clubs. Digital Media in UK is a competition between players with clubs. For example, next season tickets have sold out, what is the reason? Because we had a good relationship with clubs, they use digital media reuniting us as one family. They know expect football our fans know what to do, we have other hobbies.
Another highlight of the event was the tour of the well-renowned Genbao Football Academy, organised by Pioneer Sports. The Academy is located in the southern Chongming Dongping National Forest Park, covers an area of 70 mu with 3.5 standard football pitches, 1 indoor football pitch paved by artificial turf and football hotels of 7,000sqm. Genbao Football Academy has nurtured many excellent talents and contributed a great deal to football in China. Attendees from overseas football clubs, agents and scouts all complimented the skills of these little young footballers, and at the same time, showed great interest to have more in-depth cooperations with China’s top youth training institutions; highlighting the success of the China Football Summit 2016.