Claudia Klingelhöfer
Claudia Klingelhöfer (editor in chief)

WHU study on the Chinese football market, e-sports and football clubs

How football fans tick in China

China is currently the most dynamic football market. This is the result of a representative study conducted by the Center for Sports and Management at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management. The researchers assume that football will soon become the country's most popular sport. They have taken a close look at the Chinese football fan.

Chinese fans with a poster of the European starter Jose Mourinho

Already, according to the study of WHU 308 million Chinese at least once a week watch football. 237 million say that football is their favorite sport (from a consumer perspective). Only basketball is currently more popular in the country of the 2020 World Cup hosts.

Football is supported by the Chinese government. It aims to motivate 50 million Chinese to play football by 2020. The government's ambitious goal is to become world champion in the coming decades. However, the Chinese are not necessarily enthusiastic about football games, but rather prefer to watch as fans. At least this is what the study suggests.  

Potentielle Fußball-Fans im Ländervergleich: China weit vorne
Potential football fans compared to other countries: China leads the way

Basketball more popular than football so far

In order to be able to compare, the researchers conducted an online survey of 5000 people (besides China in Germany, the USA, South Korea and Japan) and interviewed them personally in China. One of the results was eight findings on the Chinese football fan.

1. China is currently the most dynamic football market. Football has the potential to replace basketball as the most popular sport. 21 percent say that basketball is their favorite sport. In football, the figure is 17 percent. This is followed by badminton and table tennis with 6 percent. 

2. The typical Chinese football consumer is male, middle-aged and middle-class. He prefers to watch football instead of playing himself. 

3. The most important thing for Chinese football fans is the dramaturgy of the game and news about the game. 

4. Chinese people who are not interested in football explain this by not understanding the rules of the game.

5. Chinese football fans are more interested in one player than a whole team.

6. Players are role models for Chinese if they are cool and down-to-earth and look good.

7. Local soccer players are not yet so popular with the Chinese. Fans are more interested in international superstars.

8. E-Sports players are also gaining more and more fans in China. 

The authors of the study point out that in order to win fans, football must compete with the "highly developed entertainment industry".

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Claudia Klingelhöfer
Claudia Klingelhöfer (editor in chief)
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