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CSL releases some revenue and salary statistics

Last week, the Chinese Super League released a “state of the game” report that included some interesting statistics about salaries and revenues. For regular readers of , this news may not come as a surprise, but to casual fans there are some shocks.

Attendance Revenues

Guangzhou Evergrande not only won the CSL title last season, they also outpaced the league when it came to attendance, leading second place (in league and attendance) Beijing Guoan by 5,000 supporters. Guangzhou’s startling 45,000+ average didn’t lead to them earning the most through ticket revenue though. Beijing earned the most, RMB 20 million (US$3.14 million), despite lower attendance figures and cheaper tickets, while Guangzhou finished second, earning RMB 17 million (US$2.67 million). This proves what we’ve talked about on the site before, that Evergrande often gives away tickets to create larger fan presence.

They aren’t the only ones who do that, though. Shaanxi had massive attendance figures, averaging over 27,000 fans last season, however the club only earned RMB 8 million from tickets. Over 10 of the league’s teams earned less than RMB 5 million (US$786,689). Interestingly, those earning the least amount of money were Shanghai Shenhua and, in last place, Shandong Luneng.

It’s obvious that many of the teams are run as major financial losers for the companies or individuals in charge of them. NBA and English Premiership teams earn around 30% of their revenue from tickets, however CSL teams only bring in 13% from this. Overseas, butts in seats are important because the real revenue earners are concessions and souvenirs, but CSL venues offer little to no options in these areas.

The CSL can be proud in that its attendance average of almost 18,000 last season, which is higher than their east Asian competition and compares to that of a second level European league like the French Ligue 1 or Dutch Eredivisie.


The average CSL salary is RMB 5.5 million, though there is a massive gap between the average salary of foreign players (RMB 5.49 million) and domestic players (RMB1.57 million), a gap that has widened very quickly as two years ago the average salary was RMB2 million. The total amount spend on salaries has also doubled, going from RMB 400 million to RMB 880 million.

Guangzhou Evergrande is a major reason why salaries have jumped so much, accounting for almost 25% of total salaries, spending RMB 228 million on salaries. That, combined with Shanghai Shenhua’s RMB 150 million (surely to skyrocket with Didier Drogba’s addition), amount to 43% of the CSL’s total salaries. You didn’t read that wrongly. Two teams pay nearly as much in salaries as the 14 others do, combined.

While Zhu Jun may feel his money was highly wasted, its not quite as bad as things in Shandong, where Luneng spent RMB 80 million and currently sit second to last with 11 points in 13 matches. Guizhou Renhe, currently in sixth place, round out the top, having spent RMB 55 million in salaries.

The above is a very real shock and it shows how important spending wisely is, money doesn’t get you any closer to winning titles.


While there is other money coming in, most notably the RMB 65 million from Dalian Wanda as well as the large sum provided by Nike from their 10 year across-the-board kit deal signed in 2009, its obviously not enough to cover the massive salaries for many of these clubs.  There is the league wide CCTV-5 television deal and some teams have deals with local stations that bring in some extra funds, as well as team sponsorships, but its obvious that the vast majority of CSL teams are running at a massive loss.

For the most part, the league is headed into the right direction, but massive deals like the ones for Nicolas Anelka, Dario Conca, and now Didier Drogba are not exactly a positive. While they lead to wider attention internationally, they aren’t good for the health and future potential of the CSL.

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.



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