Skip to main content

Arsenal eclipses Manchester United as most popular soccer club in China

February 4, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Chinese soccer fans say Arsenal is their favorite club. Here huge numbers turns out to watch the London club on tour.
Chinese soccer fans say Arsenal is their favorite club. Here huge numbers turns out to watch the London club on tour.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Arsenal is the most popular soccer club among Chinese fans, according to a new survey
  • Manchester United and AC Milan were the next popular clubs in 16,000-fan survey
  • English Premier League clubs still struggle to profit from overseas fansbase
  • In China, Guangzhou Evergrande are taking the domestic league by storm

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- The bad news just keeps coming for English Premier League champions Manchester United.

Already out of the FA and League Cups, another English Premier defeat to Stoke at the weekend left the club lagging 15 points behind leaders Arsenal and now an online survey of Chinese fans reveals the London club has eclipsed United as the most popular football club in China.

Arsenal edged David Moyes' side as the most popular club with Italian side AC Milan third, and ahead of Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Germany was chosen as the most popular national side in China ahead of Italy and Spain while the English Premier League was the overwhelming favorite national division among Chinese fans, receiving 50% of the votes ahead of Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A.

The survey was conducted by Coventry University's Center for the International Business of Sport (CIBS) in England between September and November last year, and drew a total of 15,586 responses.

CIBS researcher Jiajia Song offered a possible explanation for why Chinese football fans may prefer Arsenal to Manchester United, which has regularly toured in the Far East.

"Fans are more likely to support a club team when players from their favorite national squad regularly make the starting line-up," said researcher Jiajia Song, who worked on the survey.

Beckham appearance causes stampede
Soccer star Drogba moves to China
Arsenal dump Nike, sign with Puma

"This means players like Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podalski, both German international players and players for Arsenal, are likely to fulfill an important commercial and marketing role for club, country and league."

Arsenal first played in China in 1995 but did not tour again until 2011, reportedly because manager Arsene Wenger preferred to focus on preseason training in Europe rather than embarking on potentially lucrative international tours.

Many of Arsenal's Premier League rivals, including United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, have traveled to China and other Asian nations in the hope of boosting their preseason coffers.

But Professor Simon Chadwick, director of the CIBS, argues the potential revenue from a club's global fanbase is not being maximized.

"There's no doubt that clubs generate revenue from China, South Korea and Japan," Chadwick explained on Twitter. "Whether they make a profit is a different matter.

"Typically, less than 10% of turnover from a Premier League club comes from overseas sales. Compare European football to NBA in China, for example.

"The NBA has physical and marketing infrastructure set up on the ground to capitalize on opportunities to serve fans and customers."

For now, Arsenal and its Premier League peers still deem it worthwhile to travel east to play in front of their global fans, but they face growing competition from China's domestic game.

The Chinese Super League was established in 2004, rebranding the Jia-A league formed a decade earlier, and it has now been expanded to 16 teams.

Guangzhou Evergrande is the club taking the domestic league by storm and last November it became the first Chinese winners of the Asian Champions League.

The Chinese champions claims it regularly attracts 45,000 fans.

Evergrande is coached by Italian Marcello Lippi, who guided Italy to the 2006 World Cup. The foundation for Lippi's success is a group of burgeoning Chinese talent; he only has three international players among his ranks largely because the Chinese league limits each club to employing five international players.

Read: Moyes bemoans bad luck

Read: Manchester United team up with Chinese sponsors

Read: China soccer, vanity project or emerging power?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Football Club
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
Dutch football team head coach Louis van Gaal (L) and Dutch's assistant coach Patrick Kluivert (R) look on before a friendly football match between Belgium and Netherlands in Brussels on August 15, 2012.
Should the Manchester United board have insisted upon a more radical overhaul of the club's football operation when Alex Ferguson stepped down?
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Sunday Oliseh plays for NIgeria at the 1998 World Cup in France.
When Sunday Oliseh was a young boy, he never dreamed he would one day carry the hopes of 170 million people on football's biggest stage.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
The 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, which claimed 96 lives, brought the red and the blue halves of Liverpool together.
CNN's Don Riddell says the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the families of the 96 victims and the survivors.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The Champions league trophy stands on show during the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions league at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two European heavyweights will collide in the Champions League semifinals after Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were drawn together in Switzerland.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
In a city where football is a religion, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is fast becoming a deity.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
Neymar
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
February 1, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
ADVERTISEMENT