Real Madrid and Barcelona now appear to be closer than ever before to playing regular La Liga games in China – but just how soon could that become a reality, what obstacles still lie in the way and what sort of impact would that have on global sport?
The following is a guest post written by Jo Hoopes, who accompanied Chinese media on their trip to Super Bowl XLIX last week.
While Chinese media covering American football may once have seemed like an anomaly, this year correspondents and commentators from PPTV, LeTV, CCTV, Shanghai’s G-Sports, Guangdong TV (GDTV), Sina.com and Hupu.com all turned up bright eyed and bushy tailed for Super Bowl week, taking in the larger-than-life fan events and Media Day frenzy with enthusiasm.
NFL legend Jerry Rice, ranked by NFL Films as the greatest player in history, visited China last month as part of the NFL’s continued efforts to promote the game overseas, and China Sports Insider was there to see him. Rice talks about the success the NFL has had in London, how the approach in China is different – plus why a Super Bowl in China would “fantastic”.
Two recent stories of interest to NFL fans here. First, Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which has blitzed Europe and elsewhere with its sporting sponsorships, has finally broken into the US market, despite lawmakers doing their best to blacklist the firm due to spying concerns. Unsurprisingly it’s come in Washington where its highly-paid lobbyists have been based, and it’s a partnership with the Redskins – also unsurprising since the Redskins have drawn an equal amount of negative press converage in recent months. As they say, birds of a feather flock together…
San Francisco 49ers legendary quarterback Joe Montana – he of the FOUR Super Bowl wins – was in China recently to promote the NFL. I got the chance to interview him on top of the Great Wall and asked him about the development of the game in China, when Chinese fans can expect to see a preseason game and how soon it will be until a Chinese born-and-bred player makes it in the NFL.
For China Sports Insider Ep.1, click here.
A brief departure from China for this week’s Sports Talk column to discuss one of the best – and most unusual – sport stories of the year: the non-Fellowship of the Ring. It turns out this story made news at the time eight years ago, with media asking back then if it Putin had stolen it. Kraft stuck to the script, but, eight years later, is apparently fed up and wants the ring back. Putin has since insisted through a spokesman it had always been a gift. It’s hardly a case for the ICC, but it will be interesting to see if there are any further developments. Here’s the piece:
It’s been a good week for unexpected sports stories.
Former NFL safety Jack Brewer, who is very active promoting the game in China, admitted to me recently that the NFL had made some serious missteps in the past here by rushing in too quickly and then having to retreat somewhat.
“It’s the NFL. We’re Americans. When are we not overambitious?”
But he added that the league has learned from that and is now taking a slower, grassroots approach that it hopes will be more sustainable. Either way, it won’t be clear for years whether the NFL has a serious future in China. In a perfect world, one or more promising Chinese kids will move to the US and make it in the NFL, but that won’t be happening anytime soon – if ever – and involves so many variables. So the alternative is to try and make progress inch by inch.