Greater sponsorship is way forward - Pan
Updated: 2012-10-27 07:57
Business sponsorship is integral to the successful development of professional soccer in China, a pioneer of the concept said.
"Many local companies have followed Apollo and joined in the sponsorship of the Guangzhou club. This has greatly helped improve the city's image and local soccer development," said Pan Haohao, deputy general manager of Guangdong Apollo Group.
Through sponsorship from the group, China's first professional club was founded in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, in January 1993.
"As a pioneering city in China's soccer reform, Guangzhou has now become a hotbed in the country's professional soccer development," said Pan.
Before the professional soccer league, which was founded in 1994, China's national league clubs were owned by their respective local culture and sports authorities. And company-owned clubs were not allowed to participate in those leagues.
In 1994, the Chinese Football Association ordered all Jia-A clubs to set up professional systems by garnering sponsorships from enterprises. After that, a number of clubs, including Dalian Wanda, Beijing Guo'an, Shanghai Shenhua and Guangzhou Apollo, became household names.
"Without corporate sponsorship, Chinese soccer would not have developed into what it is today," Pan said.
Under Apollo's sponsorship from 1994-2000, the Guangzhou club was a strong competitor in China's top league. Its best achievement was a second-place finish in the Jia-A League in 1994.
Following an invitation from former Chinese international playmaker Peng Weiguo and the Guangzhou Sports Bureau, the Apollo Group is now also an organizer of the upcoming Jia-A invitational tournament.
The Guangzhou club, which is now sponsored by local real estate developer Guangzhou Evergrande Real Estate Group, is in prime position to defend its national league title this season.
"Our company, together with other local enterprises, played a big role in the Guangzhou club's success," Pan said.
Wei Qun, who played for Sichuan Quanxing in the 1990s, said increased investment and sponsorship from companies have boosted professionalism in the sport.
"Some said the 'money policy' would bring about a negative impact on China's soccer development. But you should know that many international stars like Dario Conca have joined the Chinese league, following big investments from companies like Guangzhou Evergrande," Wei said.
"The arrival of big international stars will help boost Chinese soccer development and increase its competitiveness in international circles."
Wei, also a former national team player, said the Chinese clubs and players have adopted a more international approach to the sport nowadays.
"Today, players will negotiate a deal with a club before taking the field. That's a big change. Before 1994, most players had no chance to choose the club they wanted to play for," he said.
- Qiu Quanlin
(China Daily 10/27/2012 page15)