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Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue PART 2

Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue PART 2

Improving youth development:

China has taken major steps to increase the number of football academies in the country. The government is granting special state funds to selected schools to achieve the target of establishing more than 50,000 youth academies by 2025.

Professional football clubs have also established their own academies such as Guangzhou Evergrande which is thought to operate the biggest football academy in the world. In just 10 months, and at a cost of USD 185 million, real estate company Evergrande turned an area in rural southern China into the impressing football academy which currently has more than 50 pitches and about 2,800 students from all over China.

 Establishing youth academies is crucial and will undoubtedly contribute to football development in China.

However, academies alone will not solve the root cause of challenges in Chinese football development. Recent research indicates that the early technical development of kids can actually happen at the early age between 2 and 6, even before their formalized coaching begins at youth academies.

To succeed in the future, China must therefore go back and look at their grassroots football first. What still seems to be missing in the country is basic infrastructure at a grassroots level and most importantly, what successful nations call their “football culture”.

 

Visiting Beijing:

We have recently visited Beijing on a quest to find public spaces where children would be able to play street soccer and practice their skills with friends. Guess how many places we found? That’s right, we found none… (apart from one concrete pitch located under a bridge passed by a public train)

Now, Beijing is a vast city to explore and we are pretty sure that these public pitches must exist somewhere. The question is where, and whether they are indeed accessible for neighborhood children.

 

Learning from others:

In any case, it may be worth looking at great football nations, such as Germany or Brazil, to set a benchmark for Chinese grassroots football development.

In Germany for instance, you can find public pitches in even the smallest village. They are generally accessible for local kids 24/7 giving them a chance to head out for a quick match with their friends after school or just before dinner. Some of these are full-size pitches, but often, a smaller space with one goal will do the trick. The German Football Association has even implemented a small-sided “football cage” initiative to boost fundamental street football abilities, such as dibbling and 1-on-1.

We need to keep in mind that these spaces will only need to motivate kids, give them the chance to let off some steam and develop basic skills even long before they are scouted or sent to youth academies by their parents.

In Brazil, there is a notorious lack of scouting and professional academies. Yet, the country has a remarkable record of success at World Cups and has produced some of the best football players of all times. That’s because children play in the slums, the so called “favelas”, barefoot and sometimes without even a real ball. Neymar, Fred and Hulk, all learned the game playing barefoot in the street. So did famous former players like Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo. What really matters is their passion for the game and their ambition to play day after day with their friends and become better and better to one day step in the shoes of their idols.

Even though Germany does not have slums comparable to Brazil’s favelas, there is still a culture of street football which is often fostered by the number of public pitches and spaces available for children to play street football.

 

Creating such public spaces in Beijing and eventually, in all provinces and cities in China seems like an enormous task but it would have a considerable impact on the Chinese football culture and may contribute to the development of street football.

In the long run, focusing on grassroots and on developing a football culture may be the way for China to increase the followers of the game, the number of homegrown talents and perhaps, even pave the road for China to one day become world champion.

Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue

Football Development made in China – The Grassroots Issue

It’s been almost one year since our last update of Chinese football so once again, it is time for a closer look on recent developments at the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and the Chinese Super League (CSL).

 

Part One: China’s Strategy – The German Connection

China has pumped vast financial resources into its football industry since President Xi Jinping made it clear he wants to see his country qualify for, host and one day win the FIFA World Cup. To increase the attractiveness of the domestic league, CSL clubs have purchased a number of international superstars like Hulk, Alex Teixeira or Jackson Martinez.

However, Chinese officials are aware that increasing the league’s attractiveness is only part of the puzzle. There are many more challenges ahead, especially when it comes to the development of Chinese national players. After a disappointing campaign of the Chinese national team which seems to miss out on another FIFA World Cup in 2018, officials have been desperate to explore ways to improve the performance of Chinese national players in the short run.

 

U-20 Exposure to German football

The CFA has recently announced that an agreement had been reached for their Under-20 (U-20) national team to play as optional add-on against the clubs in the fourth German division (Regionalliga Südwest). 19 teams were qualified to play in Germany’s Regionalliga Südwest, one of the five regional divisions in the fourth tier of German football. The Chinese side inclusion will round-up the number to 20.

China’s Under-20 will begin playing in the second half of the upcoming season, from January onwards but their results will not count in the league table as it is optional for the German clubs to take on the Chinese U-20 on their respective weekends without scheduled league games.

What seems like an unusual step may actually enhance the quality of Chinese U-20 players giving them exposure to challenging environment on a regular basis. The current U-20 squad playing in Germany will most likely contain a number of players who will be promoted to the Chinese first team embarking on the qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Exposing their U-20 players to a more competitive environment may indeed increase China’s chances to qualify for 2022. But we need to keep in mind, that the Regionalliga is only the fourth tier of German football after the Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga and 3. Liga and as such, it is a league composed of semi-professional players.

The benefits of this intercultural exchange will certainly be monitored closely and – if successful – it could serve as a role model for the future development of national players in China.

Who will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup?

Who will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup?

Current Developments:

Experts and fans who were expecting FIFA to amend their current regulations to allow bids from Europe and Asia in the 2026 bidding process were disappointed after the FIFA Council has ruled that countries from Europe (UEFA) and Asia (AFC) will be barred from bidding to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

This means that a number of serious European competitors are now out of the picture. Also, emerging football/ soccer countries such as China will not have a chance to win the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup. China will have to wait for their turn in 2030.

FIFA’s decision however will be a big boost to the United States’ potential bid to host the tournament as it rules out many of their top would-be competitors.

Even though US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati so far has not officially committed to bidding for the 2026 World Cup, a US bid is widely anticipated. With Canada and Mexico also interested in bidding, the US may face the toughest competition from within their own association CONCACAF.

If the US wants to make sure they’ll win the hosting rights for the 2026 tournament, the logical step would be to embark on a joint bid with Canada and/ or Mexico.

But even if the US were to go on their own, chances that they will win the hosting rights for 2026 are immense.

 

Quality is Key:

During the bidding process and especially after the hosting rights are won, a thorough Quality Management is needed to ensure that the tournament will fulfill expectations and requirements of stakeholders around the globe.

Organizing a FIFA World Cup which does not live up to expectations can quickly result in a loss of reputation for the host country.

BALLYMPICS will support bidding nations (first come, first serve) and the 2026 Host Country to ensure Quality Management is embedded early on in the process and at later stages during tournament preparations.

 

What do you think? Who should host the FIFA World Cup 2026? Please leave a comment below to join the discussion.

Asia Tour 2016 Summary

Asia Tour 2016 Summary

The BALLYMPICS Asia Tour 2016 was a huge success. The BALLYMPICS team met with a number of experts across Asia to discuss recent developments and challenges in soccer and other sports.

Topics included the upcoming club licensing requirements and their implications on national leagues and football/ soccer clubs.

Our team was also invited to attend the inaugural #LeSportsConnects sports forum in Dongguan, China where we discussed the development of the sports industry in China with experts from around the world. China's focus currently lies on developing football/ soccer but other sports such as basketball, rugby and American football have also received large investments and have become increasingly popular. The number of sports organizations entering the Chinese market keeps increasing and also includes major leagues such as the NBA, NFL, the German Bundesliga, the English Premier League and numerous well-known football/ soccer clubs.

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BALLYMPICS will continue to offer solutions for football/ soccer clubs, leagues and other sports entities in Asia to help them improve their performance and further develop into more profitable organizations.

Football Development made in China – Getting started

Football Development made in China – Getting started

China seems to be making fast progress establishing their youth development infrastructure. Without doubt, their goal is to develop talent as quickly as possible to be able to create a competitive national team as early as 2022.

Football/ soccer in China is supported at the highest levels. China’s president Mr. Xi Jinping has made no secret of his love for the “beautiful game.” He’s also made it clear he wants to see China qualify for, host and one day win, the World Cup.

So consequently, setting up a proper youth development infrastructure for talented young Chinese is a starting point. China’s administration has reportedly named 4,755 primary and middle schools across the country as “specialist football academies” to spearhead campus football development, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) announced.

Moreover, 31 counties and districts have been picked to operate selected pilot football projects. The appointed schools will enjoy extra funding and support. The MOE requires selected schools and districts to widely publicize football events and progresses made.

The selected schools will be evaluated regularly and the results will be made public. Underperformers will first be given a chance to improve, and will be stripped of their status if unsuccessful, said the MOE.

The MOE has not communicated however, how and by whom these impartial quality assessments will be conducted, especially bearing in mind the large number of specialist football academies. Also, it remains unclear which quality criteria China will use to conduct these assessments. Will the Chinese Football Association develop their own set of quality criteria? Or will they use criteria developed by international bodies such as FIFA or the AFC?

What do you think?

Club licensing is going live – Asia Tour 2016

Club licensing is going live – Asia Tour 2016

Join us!

The event:
We will discuss the requirements of club licensing and the benefits of Quality Management in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
When?
November/ December 2016
Where?
Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing
Who will attend?
Experts from Germany and Qatar joined by local experts

“The German soccer Wunderkind: Is it all coincidence?”

“The German soccer Wunderkind: Is it all coincidence?”

It may be hard to believe today. But at EURO 2000, Germany was one of the worst teams in the tournament scoring only one goal and finishing last in their group.

Germany, traditionally an enthusiastic soccer nation, was struck hard.

What happened next is a case study in German corporate problem solving: self-reflection (“What went wrong?”), determining the cause (“Why did it happen?), followed by careful top-down management (“How do we fix the system so it never happens again?”).

Soon they discovered the root cause of the problem: Germany’s soccer schools were not producing enough talented players for their clubs and the national team.

To rectify the situation, the German soccer federation (the “DFB”) decided the country needed to invest in better youth development. So in the 2001-2002 season, the DFB began mandating that all clubs in the professional German leagues run their own youth academies.

A couple of years later, the DFB realized that requiring the top German clubs to run their own academies was only the first step in the right direction. But in addition, there also had to be a way to ensure the quality of the 100 or so academies. To achieve this objective, the German soccer federation came up with a set of quality criteria for youth academies that became mandatory for academies of all clubs in the German professional leagues. This was essentially the birth of a quality management system for professional soccer academies in Germany.

Academies are not only required to implement quality criteria but they are also regularly assessed to determine if they have properly implemented them.

Criteria for evaluating academies include their strategic and financial planning processes, talent identification and development processes, organizational structure and decision making processes, athletic and social support and an evaluation of their facilities and equipment provided.

Making sure that academies adhere to defined quality criteria eventually resulted in an increased number of highly-talented young players in Germany. Many of these significantly contributed to Germany’s triumph in the FIFA World Cup last year and there are so many more talented young players in Germany’s U-21 squads that a German dominance in world soccer seems likely until other countries get a chance to catch up.

So what does this mean for other countries with similar ambitions? Rather than spending billions of Euros, Pounds or whatever currency on buying international superstars, soccer federations should ensure that clubs take youth development serious. But it’s not enough to require the establishment of youth academies. Federations need to provide a unified set of quality criteria and ensure that these criteria are adhered to by regularly assessing clubs and evaluating their actual condition (“as-is”) against the set of defined quality criteria (“should be”). Any divergence needs to be adequately analyzed and addressed to ensure academies are operating as desired providing a source of high quality players for domestic clubs and the national team.

Ultimately, this quality management system has only winners: Young talents will be thankful for the chance to develop their skills at high quality academies and fans will be enthusiastically supporting their national team as it progresses through the World Cup finals. Last but not least, professional clubs as well as the national league will enhance their reputation and increase their overall value.

The key to success is a well-defined set of quality criteria for youth academies and an adequate quality management system to ensure independent assessments and continuous improvement.

“The new challenge for football clubs – Club licensing is going live”

“The new challenge for football clubs – Club licensing is going live”

FIFA club licensing system

FIFA is aiming to create a global club licensing framework by the end of 2016, working with the six regional confederations to improve club football. To achieve this objective, FIFA will define minimum standards in key areas such as stadium safety, fan experience and youth football development. The FIFA club licensing principles will form the basis for the confederations’ own club licensing principles, taking into account the regional specificity of club football.

Essentially, this means that confederations will come up with their own specific frameworks based on FIFA’s minimum requirements. Clubs then need to meet these principles to be eligible for certain competitions, adhering to international statutes, investing in training facilities and agreeing to the independent auditing of finances and greater transparency of ownership.

The FIFA club licensing system requires clubs to commit to minimum standards and principles in five key areas:
1.Sporting criteria e.g. clubs must have a youth development programme; clubs must promote fair play
2.Infrastructure criteria e.g. clubs must have safe, comfortable stadiums for fans, families and media; clubs must have appropriate training facilities
3.Personnel and administrative criteria e.g. clubs must have qualified coaches and medical staff and professional, well-educated management
4.Legal criteria e.g. clubs must adhere to international statutes; club ownership must be transparent
5.Financial criteria e.g. independent auditing of club finances including financial statements and transparency of ownership

How does this impact clubs?

What does this mean for professional football clubs? In a nutshell, the proposed new club licensing system follows the same principles as any other Quality Management System. It defines principles and minimum requirements, ensures adherence to these requirements is regularly assessed and corrective action is taken where necessary.

Clubs will have to make an effort to ensure that they will comply with the minimum requirements FIFA and the confederations will define. If they fail to comply, there may be severe sanctions imposed on them such as exclusion from lucrative international competitions. Many clubs will probably need to engage with expert consultants who help them analyze their current operations and make amendments where necessary to comply with requirements.

Clubs also need to ensure more transparency when it comes to their operations and finances (key area No.5). Independent assessors will conduct reviews (“audits”) of clubs and they will need access to confidential information and supporting documents. One fundamental principle of auditing is that mere statements or promises are not enough to fulfill a requirement. Rather, supporting evidence is required to provide reasonable assurance that the requirement is fulfilled. This means that clubs need to ensure that they properly document their operations and finances and that this documentation is stored to be readily available for the auditors when they show up to do their assessment.

For many clubs, providing insight into the five key areas highlighted above will be a new experience in an industry which is traditionally secretive and not used to transparent reporting which has its roots in the business world.

Nevertheless, setting minimum requirements for professional football clubs is essential in times of negative press and scandals which have shocked the football community and it will eventually benefit clubs and provide a stronger foundation for global football.

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