Business / Industries

China needs to ramp up its plans to build more 'fields of dreams'

By Zhu Wenqian (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-23 07:53
A lack of soccer pitches could hold back China's plan to become a world power in the sport.

The country hopes to roll out 20,000 new pitches and training facilities by 2017 in a move to develop 100,000 new players, according to the Ministry of Education.

But problems finding available land are likely to make those goals difficult to achieve. "One of the main concerns about China's plan to develop soccer is the lack of training fields," Tristan Wang, a soccer analyst at advertising and marketing agency Oceans Sports & Entertainment Inc, said.

His views are echoed by Wang Xianwei, general manager at Beijing Olympic Sailing Jianye Sports Facilities Co Ltd. Construction demand has yet to increase and the firm's order book is thin.

"We received less than 10 orders last year to lay soccer pitches, and most of them came from elementary and secondary schools as well as universities," Wang said. "Most places choose to renovate their pitches, and only a few put in new ones."

Even in China's soccer heartland, the lack of new pitches is becoming a major headache for the game at grassroots level.

Dalian and Qingdao, where many of the country's top players come from, have seen sluggish growth.

"I haven't seen orders increase for soccer pitches," Sun Daiting, general manager of Qingdao Yifan Sports Facilities Co Ltd, said. "We are all striving for more business opportunities."

By the end of 2013, China had about 1.7 million sports venues and pitches, double the number compared to a decade ago. But the country still lags behind the United States and Germany, according to the latest national census of sports venues.

The State Council has outlined plans to increase the per capita venue area to 2 square meters by 2025, compared to the 1.46 sq m per capita by the end of 2013.

That can be achieved if new pitches are constructed in urban communities, according to the General Administration of Sport of China.

"Clearly, the competition for land in the urban areas is intense," Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, said.

"While football may be a government priority, the sport still has to compete for land with other industrial sectors from retailing through to manufacturing."

"This may, therefore, require that State authorities, local planners, and those involved in football (soccer) to look toward other solutions for addressing this issue," he added.

One option, he pointed out, might be to create indoor arenas with smaller pitches.

"Still, unless football can gain priority access to space, it is likely that the government's plans will come under pressure and targets will be missed," Chadwick said.

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