Only by loosening the State sports body’s tight grip on the market can China meet its goal of a significant increase in the value of the industry, experts said.
Given the sports industry’s late start in China and strict State control on the market, raising the industry’s gross value to 5 trillion yuan ($815 billion) by 2025, five times more than now, seemed an unrealistic goal when the State Council unveiled it in October, they said.
Still, pundits attending the 2014 National Sport Science Conference, which was held at Beijing Sport University from Dec 3 to 5, agreed that the growth could be achieved if the State General Administration of Sports releases its dominating control of the market as expected.
“It seems that the goal is too difficult, given the industry’s relatively small scale now. But the potential in the untapped Chinese market and the new policy to inspire private and non-governmental bodies to invest have suggested fast growth to make it happen,” said Lin Xianpeng, a sports management professor at Beijing Sport University.
The State Council issued a national plan in October to boost the fledging sports industry, setting the goal of an industry gross value of more than 5 trillion yuan by 2025, when the industry is expected to account for about 1 percent of GDP compared with 0.6 percent in 2012.
The value of China’s sports industry, which includes sports-competition-related sales, fitness club operations, sporting goods manufacturing and media rights sales, was 952 billion yuan by the end of 2012, according to the 2014 edition of the Annual Report on Development of the Sports Industry.
The recent governmental call to unleash the market by relinquishing administrative powers will accelerate the industry’s growth, said Lin, who was a member of the State Council’s sports policy expert panel.
“With the central government’s decision to relinquish approval and overseeing rights for commercial and mass sporting events, more private investors and NGOs are expected to dream big in the current State-dominated sports industry, and bring vitality to the market,” Lin said.
The decision was made at a State Council executive meeting in September.
Currently, all sporting events in China are subject to approval by the State General Administration of Sports and its branch event administrative centers as well as local sports bureaus.
These groups also charge management fees based on the importance of the event and its ability to attract advertisers.
The administration hasn’t announced any substantial measures to scrap its two-decade control of sporting events approval so far, only issuing a draft plan to relinquish some rights to 15 non-Olympic events with little commercial value.
Tan Jianxiang, a sports industry professor at the School of Physical Education and Sports Science at South China Normal University, urged the sports body to take action soon.
“The sports body should reconsider its role seriously following the call and act immediately. It should continue focusing on elite training for national teams while opening the sports market to social parties and passing on grassroots development to communities and schools,” Tan said.
“If more investors get approval to enter the market as expected, the sports industry will definitely grow quickly with the public’s increasing demand for sports entertainment and fitness related products.”