The anger, frustration and persistence of an investor in a Chinese Super League club
In the last round of the Chinese Super League, Nantong Zhiyun lost 1-2 at home to Tianjin Jinmen Tigers, but because the relegation rival Dalian lost 2-3 to Shanghai Port, the Nantong team was thrilling to be relegated. After the game, Fan Bing, an investor of the club, came to the die-hard fan zone, picked up the horn, choked up and shouted to the fans in the stands, saying "survive" and "Lao Tzu is hard".
In Fan Bing's view, "hard life" means that he often encounters all kinds of ups and downs, but he can always carry them through, and he can't toss them to death. Sitting in the office, he took one cigarette after another in his mouth, never stopping, telling Lazy Bear Sports about the club's growth over the past 8 years.
At the beginning of 2016, he spent more than 10 million yuan to "buy" the first professional football club in Nantong City. It took 8 years and invested 600 million yuan to bring it from China B to the Super League.
In the first year of the Chinese Super League, he was banned for 1 game and fined 10,000 yuan for bombarding the referee and the Football Association in the WeChat circle of friends. In the era of Jinyuan football, he engaged in small business operations. Football investors have been collectively silent in recent years, but he has repeatedly fired at the administrators. As a representative of private enterprise owners investing in football, the maverick Fan Bing has brought some fresh air to the dull Chinese football.
But he also knows that people with "hard" and independent personalities are often lonely, especially in the general environment of Chinese football.
▲Fan Bing, an investor in Nantong Zhiyun Club.
The 49-year-old Fan Bing was born in Nantong and later went to Shanghai to start a business, mainly engaged in electric power, international trade and energy logistics. Years of business have accumulated a certain wealth for him, and he has a wide range of contacts in the business circles of Shanghai and Nantong.
Because his parents live in Nantong, he often comes back to visit. He has loved football since he was a child, and found that Nantong City could not find a suitable venue for playing football.
In 2007, he spent several million yuan to build two lighted football fields in the urban area of Nantong. The stadium is usually closed to the public, and it is only for him to play wild ball with his friends when he returns to his hometown.
"In those days, it was more impetuous. Recalling his willful behavior back then, Fan Bing, who spoke straightforwardly, was a little twisted. But as soon as he changed his words, he immediately added: "I have no hobbies other than football and golf." Unlike some friends, who like to go to the night club, they go to Macau at every turn, and they spend more money. ”
In 2012, Fan Bing became the chairman of the Nantong Football Association. He said that the local football association did not set up and did not allocate funds. "The director of the sports bureau is my friend, and he will do it by deadlifting. It is nothing more than to contribute some money every year to hold some competitions for Nantong City. ”
Under the leadership of Fan Bing, Nantong City hosted the city's league and the Football Association Cup that year, and also held the "Small World Cup" at the same time as the Brazil World Cup. Fan Bing's company invests hundreds of thousands of yuan every year. Since then, the football atmosphere in Nantong has started to improve.
At the beginning of 2015, the "Overall Plan for the Reform and Development of Chinese Football" was promulgated. As the hometown of sports, Nantong has been identified as a pilot city for football reform by Jiangsu Province. At this time, there was no professional football club in Nantong City.
In order to make the football pilot city worthy of its name, the Nantong municipal government decided to form a team, starting from the lowest league and continuing to the Chinese Super League. Fan Bing and his company are the executors of this plan.
The city's original plan was to integrate the 1997 and 1998 National Games teams from Jiangsu Province, and then bring in a small number of players from outside, starting with the China Champions League. However, Suning Group just acquired Jiangsu Shuntian Football Club that year, and this National Games team was left in Nanjing and became the reserve team of Suning Club.
After the plan failed, Fan Bing and the others had to think of other ways. At that time, Chinese football had not restricted the transfer of professional clubs, and they set their sights on the Ningxia team from the second division. Just when the two parties negotiated the terms and were ready to go through the closing procedures, the transfer was stopped by the local government. The reason is that football reform has begun, and Ningxia cannot do without professional teams.
Later, they also contacted Tianjin Lokomotiv, Jiangxi Liansheng, and Sichuan Longfa Club, but they were all unsuccessful. After a few years, except for Jiangxi Liansheng, which changed its name to Jiangxi Lushan and continued to survive, the other two clubs have been disbanded.
The successive failed acquisitions hit Mr. Fan, who he said had lost confidence. In November 2015, the FA Cup final was staged at Shanghai Hongkou Stadium, Shanghai Shenhua hosted Jiangsu Shuntian, Fan Bing and Guangxi Guilongda Football Club owner Lu Wenbo were in the stands. A friend heard that the football club in Guangxi had plans to transfer it, so he arranged a dinner that night and let Fan Bing and Lu Wenbo meet. "He didn't fully agree at the dinner table, so I sent a lawyer and an accountant to Guangxi the next day, and I had to convince him. ”
At the end of 2015, after half a month of communication, with the help of various social relations, the two parties finally signed the acquisition contract. Guangxi Guidalong Football Club won the championship of Guangxi Football Super League in 2014 and played in the second league for one year in 2015.
Fan Bing told Lazy Bear that the acquisition of this Zhongyi club cost more than 10 million yuan.
Although he played in the second league for a year, the players in the team were made up of police officers, security guards, teachers, and students. "It is equivalent to spending more than 10 million to receive the shell of the second club. Fan Bing said.
▲Nantong Zhiyun team competing in the Chinese Super League.
"After the acquisition, did you think about what your club aspirations were?"
Faced with Lazy Bear Sports' question, Fan Bing said: "I didn't think about ideals at all. As the person in charge of the Municipal Football Association, he has the obligation to help the city complete the task. ”
According to the original plan, he bought the club to Nantong in the name of a private company, and then transferred it to a state-owned enterprise, and then continued to do business himself, holding some folk football games for Nantong City when the business was not busy, and playing wild football with friends. In Fan Bing's view, it is a comfortable way of life.
Unexpectedly, after the acquisition was completed, the city changed its leadership, and many of the original ideas could not be implemented according to the original plan. Some friends said that the club smashed it in its hands.
"I was stunned. Fan Bing stressed that it took him a year to buy the club. His company's business is in Shanghai, but the club he acquired is in Nantong, "I don't have any previous experience in managing professional football clubs".
"What should I do?" said a leader in early 2016, who advised Fan Bing to give up.
However, the team has moved to Nantong. Because it is government-led, the name of the club should be gender-neutral. Based on this, the club began to solicit team names and emblems from the public more than a month ago, and left Fan Bing's private mailbox. One night, the days when he wanted to give up, Fan Bing opened his mailbox and found that he had received thousands of emails. In addition to naming the team and designing the team emblem, the fans also said a lot of words of support and encouragement.
A doctor in his 70s whose ancestral home is Nantong later settled in Shanghai and became a die-hard fan of the Shenhua team. He said in the email that he didn't expect to hear the news of a professional football team in his hometown in his lifetime, and he must come to the scene to cheer for the team in the future.
That night, Fan Bing had no sleep.
"Am I really doing this for the leaders?" said Fan Bing, seeing the thousands of emails sent by the fans, he changed his mind, "I should do this for the fans."
He said that his company's business was good at that time, so he decided to carry it first. This is 8 years.
In order to run the club well, Fan Bing's family moved from Shanghai to Nantong in the second half of 2016. For him, this means returning to the roots. For both the lover and the child, it means giving up the old job and school and starting over.
The mailbox that used eight years ago to collect the team's name and emblem is no longer in use, but the email has been saved. When the club built a museum in the future, Fan Bing wanted to leave a wall for these thousands of emails and "paste them all up."
▲Nantong Zhiyun team players celebrate their goals.
The following is an excerpt from the conversation between Lazy Bear Sports and Fan Bing:
How can you spend your hard-earned money without "slamming the door"?
Lazy Bear Sports: In your opinion, what is the reason for the success of Nantong Zhiyun Club this year?
Fan Bing: My motto is: There is no miracle of success, only trajectory! In such a harsh living environment, I can responsibly say that Zhiyun is one of the few clubs that has no arrears of wages and can pay wages to players on time, I believe that all players and work teams cherish this hard-won stable work platform, so as to have the same desire and establish a firm belief in relegation.
We have given ourselves an accurate positioning from the first day of entering the Chinese Super League, Zhiyun is a civilian team, and relegation will be our norm in the next few years. The so-called attitude determines everything, and only when we put ourselves in the right position can we synchronize with the club in terms of attitude, mental dimension and values.
Throughout our year-round competition, I think Zhiyun still has its strength, its hard work, and its spirit. Otherwise, it is impossible to be lucky to be on your side forever - if you don't save yourself, God can't save us, and we deserve to succeed in relegation. Of course, more importantly, we have the uncomplaining support of the strong Zhiyun fans behind us, which has also given birth to a strong cohesion of the club.
Lazy Bear Sports: After the relegation was successful, you shouted to the fans: "Lao Tzu is hard." "What is your understanding of hardness?
Fan Bing: In terms of the interpretation of Chinese words, "hard life" means that you often encounter all kinds of ups and downs, but you can always carry them through, and you can't toss them to death. Looking back on this season, we have encountered various situations, such as misjudgments and points conceded, various suppressions, and the contempt of fans of so-called giant clubs for a civilian team and a new Chinese Super League football fan. The most infuriating thing is that the last round of matches is still going on, and when the situation is unfavorable for our relegation, there is a farce of singing "Zhiyun is relegated, Zhiyun is relegated" in the stands of other games. So at the moment of successful relegation, what else can I say except to send them a sentence of "Lao Tzu is hard"?
Of course, people with a hard life are sometimes very lonely, but a hard life may be Zhiyun's temperament, born with a heroic spirit, and will always be worthy of the trust of our Zhiyun fans. In fact, what I want to share with all fans is to love the team I follow and cherish the hard-won development environment of Chinese football.
Zhiyun believes that the flowing water does not compete for the first, but the competition is endless. Since entering the Chinese professional football scene in 2016, we have witnessed the departure of more than 50 fellow travelers, including many so-called giants. As a practitioner of Chinese football, this is very painful for me, and I hope that such tragedies will become less and less.
Lazy Bear Sports: Is it a tough process to go from amateur to professional football?
Fan Bing: When I first started professional football, I was a layman. There is a big difference between liking football and engaging in professional football, especially when the overall quality of domestic football practitioners is too poor and there is a lack of high-quality management talents.
I was lucky enough to find a role model to learn from, Bundesliga Hoffenheim, whose investors are the owners of SAP, a world-renowned ERP software company, with a training center in Nantong, and we have established contacts. In 2016, I went to Hoffenheim for more than 20 days.
In my opinion, if you want to play football, you can't play blindly and can't be confused. Before the pandemic, I went abroad almost every year to learn the business philosophy of a professional football club.
Lazy Bear Sports: What is your understanding of a professional football club through your studies?
Fan Bing: First of all, I understand that professional clubs have the dual attributes of enterprise and public welfare, and the enterprise nature requires the club to operate in accordance with the laws of market economy and other enterprises. Public welfare requires the club to contribute to enriching the entertainment life of the masses and enhancing the influence of the city or region, and the enterprise must find its business model and profit model.
Many people say that professional football should respect the industry attributes of football, but I think this understanding is incomplete, and it is necessary to respect the industry attributes as well as the laws of the industry and its corporate attributes. Professional clubs are not sports teams, and they cannot survive solely on funding, but also on their own hematopoiesis, so club investors must respect the law of enterprise development. The public welfare of the club needs the attention and support of the government.
Of course, this depends on the contribution made by the club to the city and region at the level of social welfare, and the relevant support and incentive policies are formulated, or from the perspective of cultivating sports brands and amplifying the comprehensive effect of sports, with reference to the practice of providing preferential policies for major industrial projects in the field of industry and service industry, the professional club, an important IP in the field of culture and sports, provides corresponding preferential policies and personalized service measures.
Since professional football clubs first have corporate attributes, they cannot blindly burn money, but must consider the input-output ratio. I don't know why those who invest in football dare to burn money so much, and where do they get the guts? From the perspective of the corporate nature of a club, if an enterprise cannot make money and cannot make a profit, how can its employees survive? Does it increase the employment pressure of the society? As an enterprise, if it cannot bear its own profits and losses in the end, it is immoral to its employees and society. Regardless of the cost, the investment eventually led to poor management and bankruptcy, resulting in employee unemployment, which not only pitted the country and taxpayers' money, but also hurt the feelings of fans, and ultimately hindered the development of Chinese football.
In the era of Jinyuan football, some people said that our club spent less money and cut the door. I didn't use a penny of bank loans, I spent all my hard-earned money, how can I not "pick the door"?
The ancients said: The wise man follows the trend, and the fool moves against reason. Knowing that it is irrational to invest and blindly follow the trend is irresponsible. Every employee has a family behind them, and you have to ensure that they can work in a stable environment, which is a minimum social responsibility, otherwise you can choose not to do it, in fact, no one will force you to do it with a gun. So looking at it now, those people are blindly invested, either with impure motives, or they have no reverence for the company and the fans.
▲After the end of the 2023 season, Fan Bing shouted to the fans.
Lazy Bear Sports: When you first started football, why didn't you name the club with a corporate name?
Fan Bing: My company is called Media Asia. I would say that those who name their clubs after their businesses don't even understand the basics of professional football. Looking at the whole world, how many century-old companies are there, how many century-old clubs are there, and all clubs from the big five leagues to the Japanese league have achieved gender-neutral names. Professional football must be rooted in the city and the community. Our understanding is that professional clubs belong first to the city and community, then to the fans, and finally to the investors.
Are the dissolved clubs in China a matter of gender-neutral names? As long as they follow the corporate nature of the clubs and the laws of the industry, they will not go out of business. Some people have impure intentions and want to use money to achieve results in a short period of time, so that the club can become a bargaining chip for themselves to negotiate with the government and engage in real estate development.
I've always wondered what value a player can create and bring matching revenue to the club in the current Chinese football environment by spending tens of millions of euros to buy a player.
Juventus FC signed a contract with Ronaldo that year, first because the player had a highlight moment in the World Cup in Russia, and secondly, Ronaldo himself at that time was a huge IP with commercial attributes. When the decision was made to sign him, he had already calculated how many of his jerseys he could sell around the world and what kind of profit he would earn. If you go to China, Japan, and South Korea to play commercial games, with Ronaldo, how much appearance fees can you earn and other commercial benefits to the club.
On the other hand, why do our so-called big-name players get such high salaries? Do they drive the copyright value of the league, or do they ensure the club's revenue? In fact, investors don't know at all. On the contrary, it has led the values of the players astray, and also led the parents of this generation of young players into a misunderstanding, whether it is playing for the club or the country, and completely losing the sense of collective honor and mission.
We can see that under the wrapping of huge interests, Chinese football has always been in a state of deformity. Of course, there is also the lazy government and corruption of the Chinese Football Association, which has led to the club's poor revenue.
Lazy Bear Sports: Have you ever thought about turning football into a tool for developing other projects?
Fan Bing: In the past 8 years of professional football, many people have come to me, including the top 5 real estate companies in China. I would ask them, what is the purpose of you coming to me? to engage in real estate, to get a piece of land? I can take the money to auction the land, why do you want you to come and make such a big detour?
In the team, I don't allow anyone to pay attention to the market. If I want to make this money, wouldn't it be safer for me to put all my money in the bank and get interest?
Sell two homes to make up for the funding gap
Lazy Bear Sports: How was the club's crest and name originally considered?
Fan Bing: We have optimized all the opinions we have received. The dark blue part of the football in the team emblem is the map of Nantong and the year the club was founded. The city of Nantong is characterized by the riverside and the canal, and the water system and waves represent the city's location advantages. There is a wolf mountain on the side of the Yangtze River, and there is a cloud tower on the wolf mountain. Zhiyun Pagoda was built in the Northern Song Dynasty, in 996 AD, and is the oldest building in the entire city. Although Wolf Mountain is not high, it is more than 100 meters above sea level. But in the days when there were no high-rise buildings, it was the highest point of the city. Starting from the Zhiyun Pagoda to the bell tower in the urban area, it is the central axis of the city, and the Zhiyun Pagoda is the feng shui gateway of the whole city, which should appear in the team emblem and the name of the team.
We used the waves splashed by the river to derive the wolf totem, first because the Zhiyun Pagoda stands on the top of the wolf mountain, and secondly, we want to tell everyone that football is a team sport and requires wolf spirit. When it was originally finalized, the wolf's head was facing right. Later, a friend who was engaged in Chinese studies suggested that the wolf's head should be turned to the left, because the left side represents yang and the right side represents yin, and we should always be born to the yang.
At the beginning, there were a total of 5 teeth in the wolf's mouth, but football is divided into home and away systems, and we need 3 points at home and 3 points away, so later we changed the top and bottom to 3 teeth each.
The team emblem looks like a Peking Opera mask from a distance, representing the club's people-oriented business philosophy. The first team is player-oriented, the reserve team is youth-oriented, and the marketing operation is fan-oriented.
▲Nantong Zhiyun Club team emblem.
Lazy Bear Sports: In the first year, I participated in the China B League in the name of Nantong Zhiyun, how much money was invested in total?
Fan Bing: At that time, it was in the era of Jinyuan football, not counting the money for acquisition, and the operating cost was about 20 million. The main operating costs in those days were first-team bonuses, and we didn't do well (16th in the second division) and didn't win a few games in a year, so we saved a lot of money.
Lazy Bear Sports: What happened when the club had a shareholder divestment in 2016?
Fan Bing: At that time, the government decided not to get involved, and I started my own club, so I definitely had to find some friends to do it together. The owner of Surun Group loves football and often plays with me. I pulled him in and I took 40% of the club and I took 60%. At that time, Surun Group invested nearly one million dollars per month in the club.
Surun Group was originally a state-owned tertiary enterprise, and later it became bigger and bigger, with a market size of several billions, and there was no problem with the investment club. But this company is an unlisted public company, everyone in the company is a shareholder, and the company's financial report has to be distributed to more than 1,000 people. Just because the chairman likes football doesn't mean that everyone in the company is in favor of investing in football. At the shareholders' meeting in the middle of the year, the investment in football was rejected and had to be withdrawn. It's a shame that the investment was withdrawn after a few months, but I can understand it.
Lazy Bear Sports: In 2019, the team rushed to the Chinese League, and some shareholders withdrew, what is the reason for this time?
Fan Bing: It was the era of Jinyuan football, and I was under too much pressure to invest alone, so the government promoted the local enterprise "Zhongru Construction Engineering" in Rugao to come in and engage in football together. It is a construction and real estate company, and later it was dragged down by Evergrande for well-known reasons, and it really can't be invested, and there is no way.
Lazy Bear Sports: How do you make up for the funding gap caused by the mid-exit of shareholders?
Fan Bing: Sell the house. When the first shareholder withdrew, the club had a funding gap of five or six million. I can't stop my main business and embezzle the owner's operating funds because of this, otherwise I will be even more unsettled next year. In 2016, I sold my two houses in Shenzhen and Guangzhou for more than 10 million, and in 2019, I sold my house in Shanghai for more than 20 million.
It's also God's help, and the two sales were at the highest point of house prices. If the current housing prices and market conditions are followed, I don't know what to do.
Lazy Bear Sports: Selling your own house to make up for the club's funding gap?
Fan Bing: What is owed or not, men, you must always find a balance. Those people around me who went to Macau, how many billions are gone, how do you get it?
The overtaking team does the "work" to our home stadium
Lazy Bear Sports: Was selling your house the hardest time for you?
Fan Bing: At that time, I was a little confused about Chinese football. The club didn't make any money when they played in the second division, I can understand that. After all, the fan market needs to be cultivated, the box office income is negligible, and there is no copyright income in Zhongyi. I thought it would improve when I got to the middle league, but it didn't.
Not only do we have no copyright income in Zhongjia, but we also have to spend hundreds of thousands of yuan a year to buy copyrights from the producer, and then spend millions of yuan to buy frequency subscription fees from Jiangsu TV Sports Channel, so that fans can watch our games live on TV.
In addition to the business problems, there are also bad things on the court. The teams that want to be above and do their job at our home stadium are the hardest things for me.
Lazy Bear Sports: Did you think about giving up when it was the hardest?
Fan Bing: There must be such an ideological struggle. Fortunately, the three-year epidemic has reorganized everyone's mentality, and with the ebb of Jinyuan football, the investment of all clubs has decreased. We haven't changed much, and after rushing to the middle league, because of the support of the local government, there is no problem of survival.
Lazy Bear Sports: You said in an interview before that there are practitioners in Chinese football who engage in contract fraud and some shady things, has this happened in your club?
Fan Bing: It has happened, a lot.
Lazy Bear Sports: How did you find out?
Fan Bing: Didn't they just come out of nowhere when they used forged false contracts and agreements to ask for benefits from me? For example, the lawsuit between our club and Zhu Yifan (a former Nantong Zhiyun Club player). At the end of 2018, the Chinese Football Association clearly promulgated a document prohibiting the signing of a yin-yang contract, and the previous manager of our club, Li, privately colluded with him to sign a settling-in fee (2.5 million) agreement, is this considered a yin-yang contract?
The result of such an arbitration has a very bad demonstration effect, which will lead to the later case of our administrative staff Shen Moumou and Cui Moumou, the former employee of the club, fabricating facts and misappropriating the official seal, forging a false labor contract with an annual salary of 1 million, intending to illegally occupy more than 200 yuan of the club's property, and using judicial resources with the intention of maliciously encroaching on the interests of the club.
After the club reported the illegal acts of Shen and others to the judicial department, in order to confuse the public and evade the crackdown, he smeared and stigmatized the club everywhere, and repeatedly maliciously reported and framed the person in charge of the club to the discipline inspection commissions at all levels with fabricated false information, seriously disrupting the normal operation of the club. They will all be held legally responsible for their shameless actions.
Lazy Bear Sports: Nantong Zhiyun Club previously issued a statement saying that two players were taken away for investigation, what is the problem?
Fan Bing: I was bought by the other party. We have informed the relevant personnel of the Chinese Football Association in 2021, and the answer will be revealed when the case is finalized.
Lazy Bear Sports: Have you found any other similar situations in Chinese football? Can you give one or two examples?
Fan Bing: Until today, the transfer registration system of Chinese football has not been paperless. During the transfer window, the club's official seal will be taken to the Provincial Football Association for formalities, and then go to Beijing to the Chinese Football Association to register and transfer players. In this process, the official seal is "out of control". Some people will do something unsightly when the official seal is out of supervision.
In addition, there is collusion between players, management, coaches and agents to inflate salaries, and some club managers will even privately set up a brokerage company to operate these things.
Lazy Bear Sports: Are these common in Chinese football?
Fan Bing: It's too common. But where the supervision is insufficient, it will be increased layer by layer. During the prevalence of Jinyuan football, some so-called large groups would say that they would win the championship this year with a budget of 2 billion when they reported their budgets below. This year, it will be relegated, with a budget of 1 billion. I don't understand, is it necessary to invest so much money, how to use it, when to recover the cost? I really don't understand where they spend their money. With this money, wouldn't it be good to build a few more professional stadiums to increase the fans' viewing experience, build more training bases for children, and invest more in youth training?
As another example, the club arranges winter training every year. With the current level and revenue status of Chinese clubs, do you need to go to Europe for winter training? Do you need to go to Dubai? The purpose of the team's winter training is for the players to come back from vacation, re-reserve physical fitness, and then find some high-quality warm-up opponents. We are in this region, there are so many high-level teams, we still need to go abroad for training? Go to Europe and the Middle East for training, and be beaten by others, what's the point? Do you want to hang out, or do you have something else in mind?
Our club once had a winter training in Kunming, and when I went to visit the class, I found that half of the players who played warm-up games on the field were unfamiliar, and all of them were sent by the agency for trial. The club spent so much money on winter training, it should be for my main players to exercise, and finally became a platform for the exchange of interests, isn't it a joke? Later, our club was not even allowed to go to Kunming for winter training, and at the end of the season, the target of reinforcement will be determined according to the club's plan, and there will be no purposeful recruitment.
Lazy Bear Sports: Why does this situation continue to be banned in Chinese football?
Fan Bing: What Chinese football lacks most now is a good ecological environment and a group of practitioners with a sense of mission. Many club managers lack the understanding of professional football and the underlying logic of the football system. Thinking that after a few years of playing football and changing positions, you can become a manager, that's.
Professional football has strong requirements for the knowledge and conduct of managers, not only to love football but also to have business management experience, covering a wide range, but the most important thing is professional ethics and awe of the industry and a sense of mission for the revitalization of Chinese football.
The budget for the first year of the Super League is 110 million yuan
Lazy Bear Sports: What is your club's income in the Chinese League A and China B League?
Fan Bing: Not much, a few million a year. They are all friends in the business circle, giving sponsorship fees to the front and back of the jersey and advertising.
Lazy Bear Sports: Compared with the investment, is the income too small?
Fan Bing: That's the living environment of the whole industry. First of all, our professional league management department does not have an accurate understanding of the football industry, and does not do a good job of top-level design from the perspective of sustainable development of the league and promoting the healthy operation of clubs, which leads to the misalignment and valuation of the business model and profit model of China's professional leagues, and also affects the local government's insufficient understanding of the football industry. The second is that most of our club investors and managers have no reverence for the company, do not clarify where their market players are, or do not think about doing market operations in accordance with the development law of professional clubs. Maybe it's not your own money.
In fact, the consumers of professional football are nothing more than four levels: the first level of consumers is the fans, who can watch the game or buy related licensed goods, the second layer of consumers are the media, and obtain the right to broadcast by paying the broadcast fee; the third level of consumers is the enterprise, and the enterprise obtains the privilege of corporate publicity in a specific area or time by paying sponsorship fees or advertising fees; and the fourth layer of consumers is the local government, which seeks to revitalize the local economy and culture and other social benefits through professional sports by giving certain support policies or financial incentives to professional sports。 To be honest, I'm still quite grateful to the fans of Zhiyun and our local government for their great support over the years.
In Europe, a stadium is leased to a club for many years, and many of them charge a nominal amount of rent, or even zero rent, to support the club's development, and we don't have that concept here.
Lazy Bear Sports: How much does your current home stadium cost a year?
Fan Bing: Counting the costs of home stadium, training base, player residence, office, security, medical security, etc., it is nearly 5 million yuan a year.
▲Nantong Zhiyun team and the fans behind it.
Lazy Bear Sports: What is the income of Nantong Zhiyun Club's peripheral products?
Fan Bing: After being promoted to the Chinese Super League, it must be much better than before, and the income of one or two million is no problem. However, we are very restrained, and we cannot blindly expand when the club's competitive performance is not stable and the commercial service system is not fully constructed. If a fan goes to the scene to watch the game, and even the jerseys and scarves are not prepared, and we expand other peripheral products, it is a neuropathy, and finally all of them become inventory piled up.
Lazy Bear Sports: As a promoted horse in the Chinese Super League, what is your budget for this year?
Fan Bing: The budget at the beginning of the year was 110 million yuan.
Lazy Bear Sports: How much does it earn?
Fan Bing: This year, we expect to have a box office of nearly 10 million, as well as advertising revenue and government purchase of services, as well as the year-end dividend of the Chinese Super League. All combined, there is about 60 million income.
Lazy Bear Sports: This also means that your company has to invest more than 50 million yuan a year?
Fan Bing: Yes, but we have a financial model for the Chinese Super League this year, and we will be more confident about our future operations. In the lower leagues, our home matchday income is almost negligible, but I believe that staying on the Super League platform and having a stable competitive performance, our income will increase significantly, and the fans will need to grow with the team and eventually form a community of destiny with the club. Only when the club continues to provide fans with high-quality competition products will fans be willing to buy and consume and bring revenue to the club.
In order to allow more fans to attend the game, we expanded the capacity of our stadium at the beginning of the year, adding nearly 10,000 seats. On average, the attendance rate for each home stadium is around 10,000 or 20,000. Matchday earnings are the only things we can control at the moment, and we can see and feel them, but of course it's important to improve our performance. If I had the budget of those clubs that spent money back then, I would definitely have to build a professional stadium first, instead of buying value-for-money foreign aid, how can any club not consider the hematopoietic function? You have a good stadium and provide fans with a good football experience, in order to have a better box office, in order to let the club enter a benign development track.
Jiangsu Suning Club bought Teixeira that year, and it is said that the transfer fee alone cost 50 million, which is euros. With that 50 million euros, I can build a beautiful professional stadium. Isn't it a joke that a province as big as Jiangsu does not have its own professional stadium? Evergrande has spent so much money, why didn't it build a professional stadium in Guangzhou earlier? Why didn't so many so-called giants think about building a professional stadium for their fans back then? This is something I have never figured out. If it weren't for the bid to host the Asian Cup, it is estimated that today's Chinese fans would still rarely see a professional stadium, and the hot ball market presented by the professional stadium this season is enough to prove the desire of Chinese fans for it.
I dare say that if I have another 10 years, or if the government has strong support, we will definitely have our own professional stadium and be able to feed my team through matchday income.
In 8 years, more than 600 million yuan has been invested in professional football
Lazy Bear Sports: Have you calculated how much money you have invested in total, from the acquisition of the club to the promotion to the Chinese Super League?
Fan Bing: More than 600 million yuan, which also includes the support funds given to us by the local government in the past two years. Of course, we don't invest as much as some Chinese Super League clubs do in a year, but I'm going to stick to my philosophy.
Lazy Bear Sports: This is not much in the golden era of the Chinese Super League.
Fan Bing: If it weren't for the impact of Jinyuan football, it would have been less than this, which is in line with the current environment of Chinese professional football. I believe that professional football without a complete marketization is not capable of supporting high investment, and blind investment can only worsen the development environment of Chinese football. To this day, I heard that some clubs give a budget of 300 million to 500 million a year, and it is not enough, I can only envy and not be jealous, but I am not optimistic about their future.
Lazy Bear Sports: Nantong Zhiyun Club has always been very rational in terms of player salaries and bonuses, what is the reason for this?
Fan Bing: Because Zhiyun's goal is the Centennial Club. Respecting the laws of the industry and developing in an orderly manner is the concept we have always adhered to. The players didn't understand it at first, but since the problems at many clubs, everyone has gradually understood. In my club, at least I can ensure that all employees get their salaries and bonuses on time every month. What's the use of you going to another club and getting a big contract and not getting the money in the end?
In this world, the most difficult thing to manage is people. Everybody makes mistakes, and when you manage people who make mistakes, they say, "Pay the salary." What do you do? Players also have families to live in, but a club is more than just a platform for players and coaches. As an investor, I insist that rational management is not only a working platform to protect players, but also to protect many other non-football professionals, such as administrative, logistical, medical, commercial, media and other staff, each of whom has a family behind them, and it is my responsibility to give them a safe and stable working platform.
But I think it's more about the sustainable and healthy operation of the club, so for a club like ours, staying alive is the most important thing. We are doing business, not fooling people. If you fool for a long time, you are fooling yourself. If it's really for foolishness, I simply won't do it.
My wife often teased me: Who is the troublesome plantain? The wind is also sluggish, and the rain is also sluggish. It's because you're too bored, you plant plantains, and you complain about plantains! Take out the money yourself to cause a lot of trouble, and then take the money out to solve these troubles, are you tired? What should you do? I can't pick on the son, so I can only continue to carry it down.
▲ After the end of the season, the players and fans took a group photo.
Lazy Bear Sports: What is your club's annual salary budget?
Fan Bing: I won't talk about this in detail, it's too sensitive, and it will touch the nerves of many clubs. I can only say that our budget is first of all to take into account our capabilities, and secondly, to make accurate predictions of the market, and to strictly calculate the input-output ratio. If there is no good financial income model to support it, it is irresponsible and blind investment, which will lead to unavoidable situations such as unpaid wages, dissolution, and unemployed employees, which will bring serious harm to fans, investors, local governments and the development environment of Chinese football.
Over the years, we have gradually developed a style of play that is in line with the spirit of the city and the expectations of the fans, and with this DNA as a standard, the club will not be looking for people aimlessly in the transfer market, and will not care about the reputation of the players.
In a country as big as China, what is the DNA of the Chinese national team? I don't think so, the national team coach used to use Lippi, and he has the Italian football philosophy in his blood. The Olympic team has Hiddink as a coach, and he has the Dutch football philosophy in his blood. Then the youth team and the national youth team will be domestic coaches for a while, and European coaches for a while, under such a system, can the players at all levels of the national brand be able to start and turn together? Can such a national team be good?
Lazy Bear Sports: Is the current salary level of the club a prerequisite for the healthy development of a club?
Fan Bing: First of all, we respect the laws of the market, refer to the fair value of the market to determine the price, and then assist some data and scouting systems to find matching players. After surviving this year, we will appropriately increase investment next year.
A club must have its own DNA, and we hope that players must show wolf spirit in the game, and use their performance on and off the pitch to enhance the value of the club and their own IP, and the market consumers will give them the most real recognition. In this way, the club can better open up and reduce expenditure, increase the income module, and the players can increase their income accordingly.
If all practitioners do not have such a correct understanding, Chinese football will not be good, and blindly following the trend will only make you die faster. Recently, I chatted with a new recruit who is interested in introducing next year, and learned that in the past 4 years, the 3 clubs he has played for in a row have been seriously in arrears, and even caused his fiancée to be unwilling to marry him, which is simply the sorrow of Chinese football and the sin of the industry management department.
Block the people of the Football Association in the circle of friends
Lazy Bear Sports: You were punished for firing at the Chinese Football Association and the league in the circle of friends, what was the situation at that time?
Fan Bing: It must have been someone from the Football Association who discovered the content of my circle of friends and then maliciously spread it. Later, I blocked everyone from the Football Association in my circle of friends. They don't look for their own problems, they always look for external causes.
In the meetings of the Football Association that I have experienced, almost no one dares to ask questions, and every time it is "OK", "received", and then it is over.
The Football Association will issue a notice at every turn to inform everyone which hotel to go to for a meeting, but some meetings are meaningless and can be said to be worthless. The three-year pandemic has taught us that many meetings can actually be solved online, which is both a waste of time and a cost saving. You can't have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. In the eight years since we entered the Chinese football world, we have hardly participated in seminars in the real sense, and our policy formulation is decided on the basis of patting our heads, and we almost never consult with investors and managers.
The rapid rise of Japanese football, in addition to the top-level design is more scientific, more importantly, they have a variety of large-scale seminars every year to review their shortcomings, and even invite experts from developed football countries to give advice for themselves. Since the promulgation of our "Football Reform Plan", we have not seen the Football Association invite everyone to sit down and review together to see where our problems lie and how to adjust and optimize our current policies. There is no problem with the "50 articles of the foot reform plan", but there is a deviation in the implementation, and I even suspect that the personnel of the relevant departments have not studied it well.
Lazy Bear Sports: Are you the most daring person to say "no" in Chinese football?
Fan Bing: Why did I raise an objection to the Chinese Football Association? The main reason is that in the eight years since I entered Chinese football, I have personally experienced too many chaos, and some of them are even unbelievable.
I use my hard-earned money to explore China's football reform, and I must be worthy of the title of Nantong, a pilot city for football reform, and I can't go with the flow, otherwise I will be sorry for myself. If you want to change something, someone has to stand up and say "no". Will it get better if you blindly follow them?
Chinese football needs a thorough revolution, a whistleblower, and more importantly, all Chinese football practitioners need to work together and pay for it, so that Chinese football can have a better future. It's reassuring to know that lately I seem to have seen some of my peers emerge who want to work to change the future of the industry.
Lazy Bear Sports: Do you think the Super League is a fair league?
Fan Bing: (takes a puff of cigarette and ponders for a moment) Do you think it's fair? If there is no fair mechanism, how can it be fair? To break this mechanism, we must clearly understand the underlying logic of the law of football development, the law of professional football, and the law of cultivating football talents.
In the absence of a mature commercial income model, our current professional club investors are either large investments by state-owned enterprises, or squandering with bank loans to inflate the value of players, especially foreign aid. A casual person on the bench may have a salary of more than one million, how do you let private enterprise investors compete?
Here's an example. The way in which judges are appointed in China is certainly unfair or unreasonable, and of course this may be due to the incomplete professionalization reform in the past. Referees are not professionalized, but have their own work and belong to local associations. I'm not saying who will take bribes and blow black whistles, but what should we do if we say hello to each other and blow soft whistles and bias whistles? Because if they are punished, it is a big deal to go back to their original units and continue to work, and there will be no high cost of making mistakes. But who pays for the damage to Chinese football?
What is even more ridiculous at the beginning of this year is that in a country as big as ours, there are now only more than 300 referees who can blow professional leagues. In Germany, a country with a population of the same size as Jiangsu Province, there were more than 50,000 referees on the register last year, so don't we need to rethink the way we train the population in our industry?
▲ Fan Bing standing on the edge of the training ground.
Lazy Bear Sports: If the league is going to change, what do you think is the first thing to change?
Fan Bing: The Chinese Professional Football League must be established as soon as possible, and the past model must be reversed and professional people must be allowed to do professional things.
Why in the past 20 years, so many leaders of the Football Association have changed, and in the end they all have accidents. I think that the staff of many business departments of the Chinese Football Association are not excellent talents, and some are even laymen at all, but those who really understand the laws of football and seriously study the development of Chinese football cannot gain a foothold in the Football Association.
Handing over the league to the professional league is the right way, which is also clear in the "football reform plan", but I believe that most people in the Chinese Football Association lack understanding of the role and concept of professional leagues.
Lazy Bear Sports: What do you think a professional league should look like?
Fan Bing: I believe that the professional league should be a cooperative community in the league market of professional football clubs, and a community of interests spontaneously established between clubs to restrain the behavior of various clubs and carry out cooperative production. The directors of the professional league should be their highest authority, and the board of directors should be composed of investors or their representatives at the identified levels of clubs.
All major issues of the Chinese Professional Football League are decided through the Council, and its main responsibilities and tasks involve all aspects of the development of the League, mainly including: (1) formulating strategic plans for the League, (2) determining the central issues of the League, (3) supervising and reviewing the financial budget, (4) appointing, dismissing and evaluating the work of the President of the League, (5) representing the League in handling important issues and events, (6) accepting and deliberating lawsuits, (7) convening the Congress; (8) Authorizing legislative voting and voting, (9) Determining the number of professional teams and their proper distribution, (10) Determining the rational distribution and movement of athletes, (11) Determining the rules of the competition and determining the schedule of the competition, (12) Negotiating with the media, selling the broadcast rights of the event and determining the revenue sharing ratio, and (13) Handling matters related to commercial activities.
The masters are in the private sector, and so many local associations in China can recruit football management talents from all over the country, and even from all over the world. Just because you can't do it doesn't mean that others can't do it. I believe that if the alliance is established, when investors can have the right to speak, they will not hesitate to recruit talents, and absorb outstanding talents in the fields of football, sports management, economics, law, and international professional exchanges to enrich the league's work team.
Including the business operation level of the league, now China's league is in a period of cultivation, it can give full play to the country's institutional advantages, combine the national system with the market mechanism, so that central enterprises and state-owned enterprises invest more in the professional league, rather than blindly investing in a single club, once the integration of resources and the formation of a joint force, the valuation of the Chinese professional football league will be redefined, which will not only attract more investors in the real sense to flock to it, but also promote the development of the league healthier.
The league has revenue, and the club has revenue, which not only boosts the economy, but also greatly increases the employment of football practitioners. The club is more willing to take the initiative to invest in the development of youth training, and the country's reserve talents will be more secure. Everything will be back on the right track, and the take-off of Chinese football will be just around the corner. Finally, I would like to say that the football lottery should also be launched as soon as possible, which will also help accelerate the development of Chinese football.
If it's dark all the time, I'll consider quitting
Lazy Bear Sports: You once posted the words "quit" in the league work group, is this angry talk or true thoughts?
Fan Bing: If it's dark all the time, why do you stay? Are you acting as a foil for them? The population of Jiangsu Province is about the same as that of Germany, and Nantong can match the size of many European countries. If we can't change Chinese football, we will come back to change Jiangsu football, and if we can't change Jiangsu football, I will come back and change Nantong football. If we do quit, we can come back and start our own league.
Lazy Bear Sports: Compared with the first year of the Chinese Super League, what is the specific budget of the club next year?
Fan Bing: Although we have a difficult relegation success this year, it is too torturous, and the fans are also guilty, so we will increase the budget on the introduction of foreign aid to ensure that the competitive results can satisfy the fans. It will increase the budget by about 20 million. In addition, there are some software and hardware transformation investments in the home field, and strive to control the budget within 150 million.
Lazy Bear Sports: What are the club's specific plans for next year?
Fan Bing: I envy the stadium in Phoenix Mountain in Chengdu, with an attendance rate of 40,000 or 50,000 per game, which is three times the size of us. If managed rationally, this box office income will greatly improve the survival pressure of the club. We have further plans for the renovation of the venue in the future, whether it is a new construction or renovation, and at least the design plan will be completed next year.
The biggest problem is that there are no reserve team games, and many substitutes, including reserve players, do not play quality games, which is a loss for the players and the club. We spend millions of dollars every year to raise the echelon, and we don't have a stable quality game to play. If a child does not have a high-quality game for a long time, the passion will be consumed. This is not cultivating people, it is harming people. Without a game, our coaches can't prove their coaching skills, and the club can't assess him.
Next, we will build a football academy with Nantong University, with the purpose of solving the problem of the way out for youth players and coaches. The Football Academy has been established this year, and those players who can't enter the team can go to the Football Academy for coaching, refereeing, technical analysis, event management and other related categories of re-education, and can get a degree certificate after graduation, which can not only solve the employment but also eventually feed back to Chinese football. We will invite some academic lecturers from Europe to come and train them. Only by solving the problem of the way out of young players can we build the echelon more systematically, and parents are willing to let their children choose football, otherwise they will fool their parents.
▲Nantong Zhiyun team stepped on the field training before the game.
Lazy Bear Sports: How big of a stadium to build?
Fan Bing: It can accommodate 40,000 or 50,000 people. Of course, the premise is that the environment of professional football in China can be completely improved. We can calculate an account: if the football environment becomes healthier, the average attendance at home is 30,000, and the average ticket is 150 yuan, the ticket revenue of a game is 4.5 million.
There are too few Chinese players in the game compared to the players in developed countries, so the performance of our players in international competitions will not be satisfactory. In the future, the Chinese Super League must be expanded to 20 to 24 teams to provide players with an appropriate number of games, so that we will have more than 100 million yuan in revenue every season plus at least twenty or thirty home games in the cup. This income should correspond to the advertising revenue of the stadium, so that the annual income is about one or two hundred million. If so, will there still be an operational crisis for the team?
Of course, in addition to the game day revenue, the non-match day income of the venue is also to be considered, which can be implanted in fan hotels, rehabilitation hospitals, museums and other formats. If we consider the ratio of revenue and output according to this revenue model, we can estimate the cost budget of the venue. We can't just hope to build a tall stadium without thinking about recovering costs, that's unrealistic.
Lazy Bear Sports: If a stadium with a capacity of 40,000 or 50,000 people is built, can Nantong have such an attendance rate?
Fan Bing: I should be able to. It depends on how well the club does to build the fan community. Nantong has a population of 8 million, which is a very large country in Europe, and it can't carry a team?
Lazy Bear Sports: Are you optimistic about your plan?
Fan Bing: I'm too optimistic. No matter how bad Chinese football is, it can't be hopelessly bad, the sky will always be bright.
Lazy Bear Sports: It is paradoxical that an investor who is so disappointed in Chinese football is still full of hope.
Fan Bing: That's because I have hope for our country. I very much agree with a point of view: if we look at the relationship between "economy" and "culture and sports", according to the law, the period of economic growth slowdown is also the period of cultural and sports revival. The cultural and sports revival is precisely the period of economic brewing and bottoming, which in turn leads to the next leap of the economy.
The pace of progress of China's traditional material civilization has begun to slow down, because industrialization has improved the layout of various hard facilities in society, the period of barbaric growth of materials has passed, and the Internet has built all the links, and flexible content has begun to grow violently, so the dividend period of the cultural and sports industry is coming.
Under the national strategy of internal circulation, the cultural and sports industry is a huge domestic demand market to be deeply developed, of which the sports industry will be a growth point, which can not only stimulate investment, promote employment but also give birth to the rapid development of many related industries. Football is a single sport that accounts for more than 40% of the sports industry, with a total of 183 million K12 students and 26.958 million college students, while the total population of the United States is just over 300 million. However, the sports industry in the United States accounts for nearly 4% of its total GDP, and the sports industry in the mainland accounts for less than 1% of the total GDP.
According to China's future sports population and the annual GDP of 120 trillion yuan in 2022, it is at least a market space of nearly 5 trillion yuan. I think we have encountered the best era, because the deeper the spring is pressed, the higher the jump will be, even if the economy is at a low point now, instead of stagnating, it is better to set a good position for yourself, and then be the best self in this best era, especially now is the time to rebuild the ecology of China's football industry.
Of course, I still suggest that the administrative department of Chinese football should stop being unconventional and implement the "Overall Plan for the Reform and Development of Chinese Football". In fact, the "plan" describes very clearly what various sectors such as governments at all levels, sports authorities, and education departments should do, but it just depends on whether they have carefully studied and understood, or whether they want to implement it.
No matter how hard it is, we must first ensure that we are alive
Lazy Bear Sports: Some people say that young people don't like football anymore.
Fan Bing: That's what people who don't like football themselves said. Of course, we also have to reflect on how many fields our government officials have built for children to participate in football, and how many of our coaches are willing to sink into the community and schools? Therefore, Zhiyun needs to change his thinking, go into the community, go into the school, and let the children get in touch with football. Once the child likes to come to the stadium to watch the game, his parents or grandparents will accompany him to watch it, which is the effect of "1+N". I fell in love with football after watching two games, and we have a lot of similar examples here.
Lazy Bear Sports: What are the future goals of Nantong Zhiyun Club?
Fan Bing: Building a centennial club is our unswerving goal. Therefore, no matter how hard it is, we must first ensure that we are alive, and then work towards "building a strong and charismatic team, a team that the people of Nantong and even Jiangsu are proud of, and a team with responsibility." We want to make football a citizen's faith, weekend watching a new way of life for citizens, and Zhiyun Club an important cultural symbol of the city.
Of course, for Zhiyun Club, if it wants to become a centennial club, profit and results are important, and there is an influence between them.
The first is the importance of profitability. A professional club must be profitable in order to continue to develop, which is the foundation and guarantee of the club's operation. Profitability can be used for club facilities, staff salaries, team management, player salaries, event expenses, marketing expenses, etc., if it is not effectively profitable, these aspects of investment are unsustainable, and then affect the club's long-term development and competitive performance. No local government will endlessly support and cultivate a giant baby enterprise that does not seek to improve.
Therefore, in the future, we will always strive to improve profitability and improve competitive performance. In terms of operation, we must adhere to the principle of stability and sustainability. On the one hand, it is necessary to realize the return of capital and promote economic production, improve the market competitiveness of the team's operation, and constantly make efforts to build a good industry ecological environment; on the other hand, it is necessary to strengthen the practical exploration of talent training, team building, event planning and marketing, enhance the competitiveness of the club, and promote the improvement of the club's performance.
I am always very fortunate that Nantong Zhiyun has the best fans, they have a rational and sober understanding of the laws of professional football, and they have been giving advice to the club, encouraging and firmly supporting the club's strategy, waiting for the environment to change, if the environment can change in the direction we expect, a series of share reforms may be made, so that the fans are the masters. When the time comes, it will promote the securitization of the club and turn it into a public company in the true sense of the word that fans can hold shares.
▲ Fan Bing looked at the home fans.
Lazy Bear Sports: The club is now a single-share structure?
Fan Bing: That's right.
Lazy Bear Sports: How is your other business, and with your current financial resources, can you support the survival and development of the club?
Fan Bing: It should be okay, of course, this is also due to the fact that the entire industry is tending to be rational. At present, although it is a little tired, it is not a big problem, after all, the local government is still relatively supportive. Besides, God is fair, and several other projects I have invested in are currently okay, with some good dividends every year.
Over the years, there have also been investors who want to come in, but I am more concerned about whether the values of the two sides are the same, and whether they are truly willing to protect this spiritual home for the city and the fans, after all, the current Chinese football industry is still in a period of cultivation, which requires time and patience, and more importantly, feelings and a sense of mission.
Some prospective investors are not bad for money, but after communicating with them, you find that they don't even know what professional football is all about, so why let them in? If you come in and think about getting a piece of land for real estate development, it's not interesting.
When the Chinese football environment is completely improved, or if we can meet investors who are really willing to work with us to pioneer the Chinese football industry, we will consider bringing in strategic investors, but I am more happy to wait until Chinese football can be profitable, so that our fans can participate and share these dividends.
(All pictures in the article are provided by Nantong Zhiyun Club.) ）
Disclaimer: This article was originally written by Lazy Bear Sports and may not be reproduced without authorization.