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CSL releases some revenue and salary statistics - Wild East Football
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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.



  1. Dan

    20/06/2012 at 14:27

    They need to add online shops to foreigners can buy their jerseys.

  2. Arxtor

    20/06/2012 at 15:13

    Nearly no football clubs in the world have a positive balance sheet ; so how come chinese football could…
    Clubs can generate money though , and there are many more things to do. Online shops as Dan says is 1 idea ; at least so people have more ideas to where they can buy a genuine jersey of chinese teams (and not fakes). It’s amazing that in Shanghai for example I could only find 2 shops at the Hongkou Stadium who sell genuine Shenhua jerseys…

    One thing I have heard ; in China (well in Shanghai at least , I don’t know for sure elsewhere) the Stadiums are the municipality’s property; so no money coming from the seats sales goes into the Clubs pokets. Only sponsors, publicity, the private boxes sold to rich individuals or companies, etc… generate revenues for the Club.

    • bcheng

      20/06/2012 at 15:19

      That’s partially true, in the CSL, I think only Tianjin actually owns its stadium, the rest of the teams rent their stadiums, but they do keep at least a portion of the earnings from ticket sales (though they wouldn’t be able to keep concessions, maybe why there are so few on offer, the city’s don’t care about the money). I am 90% sure these stats are net (ie after rent is deducted).

      • Rovertlamb

        21/06/2012 at 15:08

        The misuse of stadiums in season for concerts is particularly a Chinese issue, but local government ownership of stadiums is not. In Japan almost all J-League stadiums are owned by city or county governments. However, the appropriation of ticketing funds to the club and the local community is far more transparent in Japan.

        • Yiddo Huayi

          21/06/2012 at 16:50

          Three seasons ago we had an A-League match relocated to a different city because of a late booked Bon-f*ck*n-J0vi concert. @rseholes.

    • shanghai ultra

      20/06/2012 at 15:35

      In Shenhua’s case that is correct, the local government own the stadium and Shenhua have to pay rent to play there. That is why in previous seasons some ACL cup games were played at Yuanshen, and why the 2008 final CSL game was moved to make way for a Kylie Minogue concert. Also it was most likely a factor in Zhu Jun’s absurd decision to play Shenhua’s CSL cup game in Anhui.

  3. Christian

    20/06/2012 at 16:50

    This as a case of Chicken vs the egg. If there are no flashy or entertaining players, the league will never draw any interest. Without the proper investment, the CSL will eternally remain a local league with little to no following. Albeit the numbers may not stack up right now, the recent CSL spending spree has drawn international attention, and for good or bad purposes has put the league on the map overnight. What’s more, even at home, people are now taking a larger interest in the league, whereas just 2 or 3 years ago, it was very much a sleepy football association for only the truly die hard football fans (who largely had no other choice).

    This year Shenhua increased their season ticket prices by nearly 3 times… and albeit there was a bit of grumbling at the price hike… this year in early March when it was time to buy the tickets, a noticeably higher level of excitement and anticipation was in the air (then normal from that time of year). I suspect if Drogba does join, we can anticipate an even larger increase in excitement during next years season ticket sales. So, I personally think all this hoopla is a great thing for the league… however it could be easily argued that Chinese clues jumped in a bit too soon to justify this level of spending.

    • C7

      21/06/2012 at 02:14

      For better or worse, footballers like Drogba coming to China is exactly what China needs…
      It will help to revive interest among the populations…it’s absurd that China has such massive population and yet has fewer registered players than Japan or England…
      It’s very obvious that the league is dying and they need marketing gimmick to heal…

      Let’s face it , most fan just want to see some famous players scoring lots of goals, that may not be what the football purist seek but most fans in the world just come for the goals…
      The clubs maybe making losses but i guess it’s a price to pay… and hopefully we can have more youngster playing football…
      It’s not China lousy performance in recent years that worries me but the low numbers of young ppl playing football…

      • bcheng

        21/06/2012 at 08:57

        The league is far from dying, with or without Drogba. The reason there are so few young people paying the game is connected to a lot of factors, the one child policy and the education system among them, but the success (or abject failure) of the national team and the CSL over the years is not really one of those factors.

        • C7

          21/06/2012 at 18:16

          i think u are not facing the hard realities…though u maybe right that there are other contributing factors not necessarily the NT performance in the international stage…
          why is it that for a country of almost 1.4 billions , there are less professional football players than Japan?
          Japan meanwhile has a rapidly shrinking/aging population with average 1/2 kids per family and the Japanese kids just as obsessed with exam – oriented education system…
          The hard truth is that the chinese kids are losing interest in football because they dun see any future prospect in NT or local clubs/overseas league…
          Ultimately, to revive the passion u need marketing surgery to the CSL by bringing in Drogba…
          It may or may not work in the future but i dun think CFA/CSL clubs has much choice..
          It’s just my opinion as an average football fan and i ‘m sure most fans are not ultras anyway…(yeah bring in Drog and we wan him to score 3 goals per match…LOL)

          • Yiddo Huayi

            22/06/2012 at 08:50

            It’s probably a good time to dig out the old WEF posts on “what’s wrong with footy in Zhongguo” and see how relevant they are these days (not much change I’d guess).

            From afar things seem to be rather random and opportunistic – not part of any vision or plan to grow the game.

            You can’t argue that Drogba and his dancing skills won’t raise the profile of the game and bring in more casual punters, but it’s what Shenhua and CSL/CFA do to capitalise on that that isn’t very apparent.

            Anyway – loving all the press reaction reported on this site. Good to see the cult of personality is still alive in the PRC.

            (As much as I admire his work for charridy in his home country, I am repulsed by his former blue shirt and not overly enamoured with his new blue shirt. CFA – make a team wearing lillywhite shirts and navy blue shorts and I’ll buy the genuine kit – promise!*)

            *black and yellow stripey, or black and white stripey also good.

    • Rovertlamb

      21/06/2012 at 11:43

      It COULD be too soon? Nearly 50% of the league salaries go to two clubs!!! A similar situation happened before…NASL New York Cosmos…where are they now? How did any of that help the US Soccer development of league, grassroots, or any other long term benefit?

      The league’s second to lowest earner in ticket revenue is handing out some of the largest salaries in the world to nearly retired foreign players. No one sees anything odd about this?

  4. teepster

    21/06/2012 at 06:45

    the season ticket price certainly is a value judging by the increasingly expensive talent on display. however, i think a big problem in the csl is the crappy venues for football, which are more often than not inclusive of a big, wide running track seperating the fans from the game. especially those who are seated in the ends….having those seats is like, well, like almost actually being at the game. and the away supporters are often seated somewhere enroute to mars.

    it would be nice if the csl would spend the money to develop some football-only venues, and ditch these places where a track meet is apparently expected to break out at any minute. bring the fans into the game; otherwise, the atmosphere will continue to be lacking.

    • bcheng

      21/06/2012 at 09:01

      It would be very nice and I’d be all for it, but it’s a pipe dream and I’ll explain why in a post in the next few days.

    • shanghai ultra

      21/06/2012 at 11:12

      Couldn’t agree more. Stadiums with running tracks are awful, its unfortunate that will all the money being spent on infrastructre and building projects in China, someone can’t cobble together a few soccer-specific stadiums.

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