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Cheng: Moving matches to the Bird’s Nest would be big mistake

Beijing Guoan is considering playing some of it’s 2015 matches, perhaps including the Asian Champions League matches, at the empty, soulless edifice in northern Beijing called the Bird’s Nest. Doing so would be the ultimate in outrages.

As a disclaimer, my walk to Worker’s Stadium on matchdays is no more than 10 minutes and I’m not going to say that’s why I chose my home, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t play a part in it. Now don’t think I’m being a curmudgeon because of that (at least not because of that alone).

The club’s justification for the move is that the larger capacity would allow more fans to attend the games and end (or at least cut down) on ticket frustrations. The Bird’s Nest seats 25,000 more fans than Worker’s Stadium does and so it would mean more people able to buy tickets and, of course, more money for the club. It’s not unprecedented for a club to play continental matches away from their home, but it hasn’t happened before in China and hopefully that won’t change anytime soon.

There are a number of reasons why I’m against the move. From a footballing standpoint, the move cuts into Beijing’s home field advantage in what would likely be some of the most important matches, moving the team from familiar confines to a stadium that they’ve never played competitive matches in. The players would have to go through an away match experience, instead of going straight down from their dorms at the stadium to the locker room. Most of all, there would need to be a ton of work done to keep the pitch in shape.

That’s just the footballing factors, though, what really has me frustrated is that the reason everyone is so angry about the ticketing process is that so many of them end up in the hands of touts. The online system the club put in place after 2009 to keep things “harmonious” and fair has failed miserably. While the capacity would go up, meaning a few more tickets would trickle down to the fans, but it’s easy to imagine the majority will still end up in the hands of touts, negating most of the “good” done by the move.

From a fan’s perspective, the Bird’s Nest would be a step down from Worker’s Stadium, moving the fans even further from the pitch without offering much in the way of amenities. It’s northern location would mean fans in the south of the city, where much of the loyal supporters base hails from, would have a longer trip to matches. The fans in the supporters sections would likely be relegated to one of the upper most tiers of the stadium or broken up entirely. Finally, and why I only see the move making sense for ACL matches and not the bigger league ones, the Bird’s Nest would provide logistical nightmares for securing away fans as it lacks Gongti‘s closed, controlled environment outside the stadium. You would likely have far more mixing of fans on the subway and around the outside of the stadium on matchday, leading to more possibilities of trouble.

A move to the Bird’s Nest would bring the club more money, as they could sell more tickets at higher prices (and it would likely not be included in the season ticket package), but let’s hope that it doesn’t win out. Guoan fans like to say that Worker’s Stadium is Beijing’s final siheyuan, well this courtyard isn’t ready to be chai‘d, let the Bird’s Nest remain empty.

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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