The NBA has become a tremendous success in China, both in popularity and as a money machines. Unlike soccer, tells Rowan Simons CNN, a leading expert on soccer in China, who points at corruption scandals as the main reason.
Earlier this year the former head of the Chinese Super League, Nan Yong, and his deputy Yung Yimin, were arrested on charges of match fixing and bribery.
The scandal has been a huge boon for basketball, and in particular the NBA, in China. It has overtaken football as the most watched sport in the country — the NBA estimates 450 million people now tune in — and more than 300 million play the game.
“The NBA in China is massively successful and puts football to shame,” explains Rowan Simons, author of Bamboo Goalposts, a book about his attempts to set up amateur football clubs in China.
“The NBA set up NBA China, selling 11 per cent [worth $253 million] to ESPN and Disney. It has several hundred employees. The head of NBA China is Tim Chen [former CEO of Microsoft China].
“It’s a big investment play for hearts and minds of Chinese sports fans. They are working with the Chinese government to get a basketball court into ever village in China,” added Simons.
“Marketing, franchised teams, sponsorship, AEG building the stadiums; it’s all coordinated in one NBA push. Then you look at football. Internationally, football has no representation in China. Manchester United has one office in Hong Kong.”