Despite seeing steady growth, China’s sports industry is still immature and should shift its focus from manufacturing to service and entertainment sectors, according to researchers.
A report released on Dec 27 by the General Administration of Sport shows preferential policies and a growing public awareness about fitness have helped the industry develop at a steady pace, especially the manufacture of sporting goods.
The gross industrial value stood at 1.7 trillion yuan ($245 billion) at the end of last year, indicating average year-on-year growth of 21 percent since 2011, the report said, citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
The industry saw its value increase by 549.4 billion yuan last year, accounting for 0.8 percent of GDP, up from 0.64 percent in 2014.
The biggest sectors were manufacturing and sales of sporting goods, valued at 1.12 trillion yuan and 350.8 billion respectively, which together contributed 86 percent of the industry’s value.
“The report shows the industry has been developing steadily at a high growth rate stimulated by increasing consumption of tangible products such as sportswear and equipment,” said Wang Weidong, director of the sports authority’s economics department. “The industry’s contribution to overall economic growth is increasing significantly.”
As part of a shift in focus from winning gold medals to public fitness and sports commerce, the central government issued an ambitious plan in 2014 to boost the gross value of the sports industry to 5 trillion yuan by 2025.
Yet observers have said the current manufacturing-centered consumption pattern reflects an immature industry and have called for a wider range of businesses to be developed.
“The pattern lags behind world sports powers like the United States, where intangible consumption, such as hiring trainers and renting sports venues, is more dominant,” said Jiang Chongmin, a senior researcher at the China Institute of Sport Science.
Lin Xianpeng, a sports industry professor at Beijing Sport University, also stressed a need to prioritize industrial diversify.
“It’s essential to inspire more consumption in fitness services, leisure activities and competition-related businesses－ticket sales, club merchandising and trading media rights－to cater to the public’s various needs in sport as a way of life,” he added.
The top sports body is already working to stimulate consumption in these untapped areas. Along with high-level departments such as the National Tourism Administration and Ministry of Finance, the General Administration of Sport released multiple plans in November to boost outdoor and winter sports by building more facilities, and providing better venue services and training.
China plans to build 50 mountain trails with logistics facilities and 1,000 clubs for open-water sports such as canoeing by 2020 as well as 800 ski resorts by 2022.