Professional Sports and the Sports Industry
Before the 1990s, sports in China as in some Eastern European countries were not market-oriented but were funded by the government. In 1994, Chinese soccer led the way as China's sports associations became profit-making entities. The professional system soon followed for basketball, volleyball, table tennis and weiqi (go or "encirclement chess"). Professional leagues have become major venues supported by operational and marketing systems of ticket sales, advertising, player trades, commercial matches, television broadcasting and other commercial operations. As the country's most popular sport with hundreds of millions of followers, soccer has yet to fulfill its enormous market potential. On November 30, 2003, the curtain fell on China's First Division Soccer League, and the top 12 teams would go on to become the founding clubs of the Chinese Premier League to be launched next season. In recent years, the total output value of the sports requisites industry is increasing by about 50 billion yuan each year, and the market share of health-building goods is growing year by year. Some brand-name sports goods have appeared; for example, one is named after Li Ning, world gymnastics champion, and another, Deng Yaping, world ping-pong champion.
In China an estimated some six million people each year attend professional sports events, producing an annual value of nearly 700 million yuan. China Basketball Association ("CBA") events attract an average 80 percent box-office ratings for each game. Professional volleyball, ping-pong, badminton, and baseball also have high fan appeal, bringing profit to related industries including television, advertising and the sports lottery. It is estimated that by 2010, the total output value of Chinese sports industry will account for 1.5 percent of the GDP.