John Yan: CSL cliffhanger keeps us hanging on 中超”第一悬念”

In the second to last round of the 2014 CSL season, Beijing Guoan FC went to Guangzhou to play defending champions Evergrande, Before the match, Beijing had 63 points, Guangzhou 69 points. A draw would secure the fourth consecutive title for Guangzhou.

The match was played on October 28, a nervous and dire match in which neither side could find any rhythm going forward – on came the 4 added minutes. Beijing used their last substitute, an attacking midfielder, Shao Jiayi, who has plied his trade in Germany for the majority of the last decade. Just after Shao came on to the pitch, Beijing won a free kick, about 30 yards from Guangzhou’s goal, and Shao, a famous free kick expert, didn’t let anyone done, scoring with his first and only touch of the match. The whole season came to life, as the clock is ticking down to the final round, which will be played November 2.

Marcelo Lippi, the head coach of Guangzhou Evergrande, was really annoyed by the way his team lost. He was so frustrated that he went berserk, venting a series of Italian curses to some inquisitive local journalists, who are now becoming used to his tempers. His temper still hadn’t calmed a day after the horrible loss. Lippi met Sven Goran Erikson, the head coach of Guangzhou R&F FC in the compound they both live in, and Lippi talked for half an hour with Sven, still expressing his disbelief that his formidable team would lose to Beijing, who had only one good chance at goal. Erikson took this lightly, and shared the story with CCTV journalists, turning the sullen Italian into national news, and a laughing stock in Beijing.

Guangzhou had been preparing for the championship celebration party before that round. Shao Jiayi’s astonishing goal proved to be a party killer for the 50,000 Guangzhou fans in the Tianhe Stadium. But we now have the biggest cliffhanger finish to the CSL since the league came into Beijing in 2004: who is going to win the league this season?

Guangzhou was on a nine match winning streak, there seemed to be no doubt they would defend the domestic title, but Beijing caught up with them with a seven match winning streak. In the last round, Guangzhou have to make the trip up north, to play against Shandong Luneng FC, who sit fourth spot in the league, while Beijing would play at home against Henan Jianye FC, who are fighting for their lives to survive in this league. According to AFC rules, the top two teams of CSL qualify for next year’s ACL, the Asian Champions League, directly, the third team and the winner of the domestic cup, enter the qualification stages of the ACL.

Shandong can’t make it for the third spot, they are lagging behind Erikson’s Guangzhou R&F, but they are in the China FA cup final, which has two rounds, and the first round would be a week after the last round of CSL. Rumors are that Shangdong will not fight total-heartedly against Guangzhou, however, with millions of fans paying close attention, and Shangdong, who had the biggest budget of the season but didn’t deliver on pitch, they will have to take this match seriously. They can’t be the king of the league, nevertheless, they will be the king makers.

For the first time in five years, the CSL has come to the last round of the league without a champion already crowned. This should be great for the league’s attractiveness. Netease Sport publishes its third Value Report on the CSL in a couple of weeks, the stats recently revealed are not that promising:

Average attendance in the 2014 season is about 18,600 per match, 1% down from last year; sponsorship revenue enjoyed a 23% increase, but the expenditure on transfer fees and salaries showed a 24% increase. Of 16 CSL clubs, only five can breakeven financially, the direct investment of state owned companies like Guoan and Luneng, are vital for those clubs.

And Evergrande has been receding in its support for the club, while Marcelo Lippi signed two former Italian international players, Gilardino and Diamante, who were shadows of their glorious past…

The inside story of Guangzhou Evergrande is really intriguing, which I will share in my future columns, but for the weekend ahead, let’s see how this cliffhanger pans out…

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com. Contact him at moc.l1524151929iamg@15241519298002g1524151929naiqn1524151929ay1524151929, or on weibo at:http://weibo.com/1646270104/profile?topnav=1&wvr=5

中超”第一悬念”

邵佳一补时上场,一脚任意球,保全了中超冠军悬念,甚至保全了中超这个赛季的吸引力。因为这个赛季还剩下最后一轮,在各项数据并不是特别精彩的一个赛季里,在2014年11月2日到来前,公众和媒体,对这项本土联赛,有了更多关注的乐趣。

主场迎战北京国安之前,广州恒大已经领先6分,打平即提前夺冠。然而许家印和马云两个老板都没去到天河,一场紧张沉闷的比赛,里皮引进的两个意大利人缺乏表现,赛后里皮在新闻发布会上,据说有爆粗口的行为,银狐风范不见,更为最后一轮的悬念增添了话题:中超最后一轮,北京国安主场迎战困顿于保级中的河南建业,广州恒大北上挑战山东鲁能。北京获胜可期,如果广州客场败北,哪怕和北京同分,也因为彼此胜负关系的原因,而不能卫冕中超。

这是5个赛季以来,第一次中超出现在最后一轮决出冠军,也势必是这个联赛历史上受关注程度最高、争冠球队实力最强的一轮。积分上,66分的北京国安和69分的广州恒大,在中超历年前两名积分中领先。山东鲁能47分暂列联赛第四,他们夺不了冠军,却能决定谁夺冠。15年前的甲A,山东夺冠,曾受益于北京国安同一轮战胜了辽宁,不过为了下赛季亚冠资格,山东鲁能在11月9日及11月22日或23日,还有两场和江苏舜天的足协杯决赛,有好事者分析,山东鲁能未必会对广州恒大倾尽全力。这样的新闻,也会具备跟踪效应。

这一个赛季的中超,热门程度受到了世界杯的直接冲击,夏季休赛两个月,联赛连贯性大受打击。此外中超的受欢迎程度,似乎总和中超球队的亚冠表现同步,2013年中超火爆超凡,广州恒大的亚冠夺冠之旅,是强劲催化剂。2014年又是只有广州恒大在淘汰赛有所进度,其他球队一如既往铩羽而归,而广州被意外淘汰出局后,联赛吸引力同样受到打击。

幸亏中超的锦标,还没有像过去三个赛季那样,被广州恒大一骑绝尘夺走,北京国安的七连胜,让上座率较2013年略有下降的中超联赛稍稍恢复了些生气。

根据网易体育和全攻全守体育发展公司联合推出的第三季《中超价值报告》,2014年中超联赛得到的各种投入和市场赞助,继续增长,16个俱乐部相加,总收入超过了20亿人民币,这还不包括马云投资广州恒大的12亿人民币。中超公司,作为联赛管理机构,这一年收入超过4亿人民币,给16个俱乐部的分红也能达到1600万人民币左右。经营上,中超状况仍在进步中,只是支出依旧巨大。球员教练薪资及转会费,能看到的也只是”涨幅下降”,增长幅度,从43%下降到24%——再多的市场收入,也很快就被更快上升的转会费和薪资成本消化掉了。

如果竞技层面上,中超还能吸引人,社会影响力能够继续恢复,这个联赛仍然具备未来发展期盼。毕竟此时此刻,能允许数万人在公共场合汇集、聚众表达相同情感趋向的社会活动,也只能找到中超以及CBA两种形式。以足球竞技水准论,中超虽然引进了不少国际水品的球员,但中国国家队以及各种国字号球队在亚洲的低迷表现,说明着中超联赛场面上的热闹,并不能改变中国足球竞技水平低下的现实,只是职业体育,向来不患贫而患不均,广州恒大短期内巨大投资产生的竞技优势,在这一年已经被缩小。

北京国安的表现,多少帮助了这个联赛吸引力的上升。

《中超价值报告》将这种上升的部分原因,理解为”政策红利”的出现。上有所好,下必效焉,领导们都重视足球了,国务院办公会议上也有相关引导政策出台,理论上的足球大环境正在优化之中。这样的引导效应,体现在国企资本支持的中超俱乐部,投入相应增大,像北京国安、山东鲁能、江苏舜天和上海申花,2014年的薪资涨幅破亿,都是实例。未来2015年的中超,国企背景的几个中超俱乐部,据传投入还会加大。

只是结合到各个俱乐部运营状况,薪资成本占据的比例过高,收入来源上,绝大部分份额以来广告赞助等市场来源,中超的媒体版权还是低廉得可笑,这样一个联赛,可持续发展性依旧成疑。

11月2日,山东战广东,中超的”第一悬念”,催生不了这个联赛新的生机,却多少能带来一些茶余饭后的噱头。

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com. Contact him at moc.l1524151929iamg@15241519298002g1524151929naiqn1524151929ay1524151929, or on weibo at:http://weibo.com/1646270104/profile?topnav=1&wvr=5