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Only in the CSL: Shaanxi Chanba Moving to Guizhou in 2012

Tears for Shaanxi

Here at we have a bit of a culture clash whenever the topic of relocation comes up. To someone from the UK, the idea of a team relocating is unheard of, akin to an iconic building in the city suddenly leaving. However, for an American, it’s just something we’re used to as teams regularly hold the local government and fans “hostage” and threaten moving to a better location.

Yet even for this American, the news that Shaanxi Chanba may be leaving Xian came as a major shock. Typically clubs decide to relocate based on weak attendance in their current home, but Shaanxi’s attendance was the 3rd best, regularly getting over 30,000 fans, and local fans are known as some of the most fervent in the country. Further, while the club’s apparent destination, Guiyang, is new, unchartered territory for China’s top flight, the city’s China League team was stuck in the relegation zone all year and went down.

This is entirely an economic, non-football related decision. Renhe Commercial Holdings is a major Chinese company and is Hong Kong listed. It’s mainly involved in building and maintaining underground malls in major cities. The company doesn’t have much in the way of operations in Xian and has recently had some issues with the local government. At the same time, during the summer, Renhe signed a major deal with the Guiyang city government to oversee a massive project in that city.

Renhe’s boss, Jia Yongge, is one of China’s richest men and money’s not an object for him as can be seen from the investment he’s made in the side over the past few seasons. However, without much business activity in Xian, investing money in a club located in that city doesn’t make commercial sense whereas moving the club to Guiyang, where the company is very active and seemingly has been given assurances by the local government and sports organization, is viewed much more positively.

The 52,000 seat Guiyang Olympic Sports Center, a sparkling new stadium that opened last year and has remained empty, is most likely where the club will play it’s matches. There has been little reaction in that city as the media has been advised “from on high” not to report the story until everything is finalized. Sun Jihai staying with the club was an important part of the move, and despite rumors of him returning to Dalian, Sun’s agreed not to leave and even take on some coaching responsibilities. The club has started winter training in Kunming, though national teamers Zhao Xuri and Yu Hai have yet to report to camp.

Fans cry as they gather to protest Renhe's plans to leave Xian (

Xian football fans are very distraught over the move, but there are options. Obviously, the first one that comes to mind is Song Weiping’s Hangzhou Greentown, who are on the market. Song has insisted that the buyers agree to keep the team in Hangzhou, but so far all the offers have come from outside of Zhejiang. The sports bureau in Shaanxi plans on convening a meeting of large and medium sized companies to discuss options for an individual company or a group of companies to bring football back to Xian, most likely by purchasing Greentown. While Song’s attempt to keep the club in Zhejiang is noble, one wonders how long he’ll hold out or at what price he’ll give in.

It is a depressing day for all Chinese Super League fans, but it’s especially hard for those in Xian who must feel like this is deja vu all over again. Shaanxi Guoli was formed in the city in 1996, only to leave in 2004 after incidents with crowd control. The city was once again blessed with top flight football in 2006 when Inter Shanghai moved to the northwestern city. Despite loyally supporting the side for six years, even through multiple years of a average-at-best product on the pitch, the fans are getting screwed.

It’s at times like this that we as fans are once again reminded how little we mean in the eyes of the management of the clubs we love. To them, the club they control is nothing more than a play thing and a commercial for their business and fans are just annoying bugs to swat.

Shaanxi Ultra's set off flares in protest against team's move

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.



  1. Anonymous

    07/12/2011 at 10:19

    The CSL’s indoor league is now in progress. I was at the Shanghai game on Saturday, a crowd of spectators in the dozens, a home field on the outskirts of Shanghai proper. Not sure if you’re interested in covering/knowing about it, but here’s more info in Chinese:

    (BTW: Shanghai 4, Beijing 0)

    • WEF Editor

      07/12/2011 at 10:38

      Thanks for the tip Micah! We’ll be sure to look into that

      • Laoshiforum

        10/02/2012 at 18:08

        Is Xi’an likely to have a football team then come April? Maybe they should look at Wimbledon and start a grass-roots team from scratch. Better than fly by night teams from Shanghai

        • bcheng

          10/02/2012 at 18:35

          At this point it seems unlikely, the main candidate was Hangzhou’s side, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere. I think the next step is for the local government to start one, the problem is that they’d probably prefer having an established team in the top flight (or at least a higher flight) rather than working their way up to that.

          • Laoshiforum

            10/02/2012 at 23:37

            Hi bcheng, thanks for the answer. Its a shame that an historic city like Xi’an can’t establish its own homegrown football team. But I understand what you’re saying about local government wanting an established team. Hopefully they’ll sort something out. Where is the nearest Super League team to Xi’an now? A fair commute I suspect?

          • bcheng

            12/02/2012 at 16:21

            Zhengzhou is the closest, with the fast trains its a 2+ hour trip, though I suspect that at least for this season, some fans will make it down to Guiyang at least for a couple matches.

  2. Andy Best

    12/12/2011 at 13:41

    As a Brit I still find this sort of thing incomprehensible. But it’s not without precedent or recent example.

    Wimbledon’s move to ‘MK Dons’ was viewed as an abomination but it went through. I think that people were so dazed and shell-shocked by the offensiveness of it that they forgot their own names and where they lived, let alone to set the country on fire until the decision was over turned (the correct response).

    I wonder though. Lately, a lot of clubs have been getting caught up in the financial insanity and coming right to the brink of collapse. I often think if that might not lead to moves. Then again, where to, everywhere has a team at some level. And the level usually reflects the size of the population and therefor the amount of fans they could possibly get.

    • WEF Editor

      12/12/2011 at 16:14

      Yeah. MK Dons – a disgrace of a team. Glad AFC Wimbledon got all their honours they won restored to their Borough.

  3. Chris Yang

    12/12/2011 at 17:03

    Since the death of GuoLi, football in Shaanxi hasn’t recovered completely. Personally i wont feel sorry for the move couse the root of Shaanxi football had already gone .
    All we need is a club based on local community owned by people from Shaanxi and love this place
    Shame on the Bosses

  4. Tom Seungmin Lee

    12/12/2011 at 19:41

    It is not ONLY in CSL. Already K-League had done this disgusting thing against fans. FC Scum, who has name of the capital is moved from Anyang and Jeju United is from Bucheon too. That’s why the picture of crying Shaanxi fans is not strange to me at all. Shit.

    I feel really sorry for the Shaanxi fans.

  5. Football_Fan

    02/01/2012 at 00:33

    This trend of relocating the team is an increasing football phenomenon around the world…
    Just as Tom said, even this happen in K-league…
    That’s why i never really felt comfortable with clubs owned by rich businessman or large corporations…these guys alwaz put business profit at the expense of football…

    Yet without their money, it’s really hard to grow and compete in an increasingly brutal competitive world…
    What a crazy dilemma…

    • Boojaman

      30/01/2012 at 20:21

      Tom Seungimi Lee// Do you know that Anyang LG and Bucheon SK is also relocationed team? This clubs were originally football club based on Seoul. By Decentralization policy in K-League, they moved to Anyang and Bucheon. This is the primary cause.

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