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Sport in China heavily influenced by government

This is an excerpt from International Sport Management edited by Ming Li, Eric MacIntosh, and Gonzalo Bravo.


Role of Government in Sport in China

Before the 1980s the Chinese sport governance system was a huge state-run enterprise. The Chinese government was responsible for funding and overseeing sport-related affairs and operations under a centrally planned, hierarchical economic system (Jones, 1999). The country’s adoption of the open-door policy in the 1980s led to the transformation of the sport system in China. The sport governance system then gradually evolved under the free-market system to become more self-sufficient (Hong, 2003). The State Sports Commission was restructured to become the State General Administration of Sport in 1998. Although the sport governance system has been reformed considerably in the last two decades, the governments at all levels still has extensive control of sport operations in China.

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The State General Administration of Sports (SGAS) is an administrative unit under the State Department. As shown in figure 9.4, it has three branches, administrative departments, sport competition management centers, and other support and services institutions. The SGAS is closely tied to the All-China Sports Federation and the Chinese Olympic Committee. Besides forming strategies for sport development, overseeing their implementation, and developing mid- and long-range sport development plans, the SGAS is responsible for a number of functions:

  • Creating a national sport framework
  • Promoting physical activity and exercise participation in schools and local and regional communities
  • Organizing national sporting events
  • Organizing international sport events in China
  • Enforcing antidrug and anticompetitive measures
  • Liaising and cooperating with Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan
  • Supporting research into the development of sport
  • Implementing regulations governing the sport industry, sport market, and sport-related business activities
  • Implementing national physical training standards and supervising public health in coordination with the Ministry of Health
  • Overseeing sport activities with foreign associations and teams, and sport-related cooperation and communication with countries and regions outside the mainland

To fulfill the nation’s Olympic strategies and ambition, the SGAS and sport authorities at the provincial level have played a key role in promoting sport development in China. One of the strategies is sponsorship of the Chinese National Games (CNG). Modeled after the modern Olympic Games, the CNG are the largest and most important sport extravaganza in China. Each province-level administrative unit sends a team to compete in the CNG. The preparation for and competition at the CNG allow the government to cultivate elite Chinese athletes for major world competitions.

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The essence of Chinese Olympic strategies and ambition is a unique system of selecting and training elite athletes (figure 9.5). China is one of the few countries in the world that dedicate and use spare-time sport schools extensively to train and prepare future elite athletes. A spare-time sport school is a boarding school specialized in sport and established to train Olympic hopefuls. Students are selected for their athletic talent. They take academic classes in the morning and engage in rigorous sport training sessions in the afternoon. These sport schools serve as a reserve pool for elite sport teams at the provincial and national levels. Currently, 360,000 students attend about 3,000 sport schools at all levels in the country. Many issues are associated with this centralized athlete development system, including early entry (e.g., diving starts at age four or five), arbitrary selection methods, poor training facilities and conditions, inhumane training methods, and inadequate education. On the other hand, this system provides China with an advantageous position for winning medals in the Olympic Games and other world sport competitions, leading to tremendous national pride among its citizens.

The Sports Law of the People’s Republic of China became effective on October 1, 1995, becoming the first fundamental legal document for sport since the current regime was established in 1949. The Sports Law establishes the main tasks and key principles in managing the sport industry, confirms the importance of mass sport, and identifies the duties and responsibilities of sport-related organizations. Essentially, the law sets the framework for the development of sport in China (Jones, 1999). The enactment of the law signified that the sport industry in China has entered a new era under the protection of the country’s legal system. Based on the Sports Law, local governments at provincial and city levels have the right and authority to make their own rules for managing sport within their jurisdictions.

The Plan for Olympic Glories was released by the SGAS in 1995. The plan outlined three goals: (a) restructuring the system in elite sport training and management, (b) enhancing the elite athlete delivery pipeline and system (including sport schools), and (c) maintaining the nation’s leading position in world sport competition, particularly the Summer Olympic Games (Chinese Olympic Committee, 2009).

In 1995 the State Council promulgated the guidelines for a national fitness program. The guidelines were drafted with the aim of improving the health and the overall physical condition of the general population. The guidelines encouraged everyone, especially children and adolescence, to engage in at least one sporting activity every day, learn at least two ways of keeping fit, and have a health examination every year. The hope was that by 2010 about 40 percent of China’s population would be regularly participating in physical activity and that clear improvement would take place in the physical fitness level of Chinese citizens (Chinese Olympic Committee, 2009).

Case Study

Brazilian Football and the Coritiba Football Club

Fernando Mezzadri, PhD, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil

Brazilian football is known around the world for its players, its national team, and its national championship. In the current structure, the Brazilian championship league is made up of four divisions. Serie League A is the most important because it includes 20 of the strongest clubs in Brazil, among them Coritiba Football Club.

Coritiba FC began its history in the city of Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná. The city, located in the southern part of Brazil, has a population of 1.8 million. The ethnically diverse city is well known for its progressive architecture, excellent educational system, efficient system of public transportation, and strong economic development. There are two variations in the spelling of the city’s name: Coritiba, the European way, and Curytiba in the Guarani language; both forms are correct. The city accepted the traditional indigenous name Curitiba, whereas the football club adopted the European name of Coritiba.

Coritiba FC was founded on October 12, 1909, by a group of young men of German descent. The colors of the club are green and white. The history of the club is marked by the achievement of several titles in the Brazilian football competition and the presence of the numerous fans who have followed the club for the past 100 years. The team has won state, national, and international titles. Perhaps the most important title was achieved in 1985, when the team won the national football championship of Brazil.

Coritiba FC is managed by a structure that includes several committees. The administrative committee is made up of a president, vice president, and secretary. The structure of the club also includes seven directorship positions: marketing, financial, football, institutional relations, sponsorships, director of minor divisions, and director of the administrative council. These directors are elected by their club members and do not receive any salary. Their overall responsibility is to oversee the operations of the club. One of the main challenges of the administrative structure is to achieve a balance among the economic interests of the team. In addition, they face the challenge of managing the demands of the media as well as keeping their fans satisfied and attached to the institution. These tasks are not always easy to handle because, as with many sport organizations, the demands and high emotions of the fans often clash with the rationality of certain decisions made by the administration.

The club is organized under a professional structure of management that aims to reach administrative excellence in three defined areas: professional football, minor divisions, and marketing. Each of these three areas is managed by a highly qualified group of paid professionals. To have a competitive professional football team, the club strives to have the best players available to them. To achieve this, the club follows two strategies: It recruits players from other clubs and prepares future talented players within the club as part of the minor division structure. For these players, the club offers quality coaching and education, and constantly assists them throughout their social adjustment. The club has several departments that work in these areas, including physiology, nutrition, psychology, and social assistance.

In its marketing strategies, the club has focused on increasing the visibility and exposure of the club’s commercial partners. The involvement of the club and its fans is also fortified with the increase in the number of new partners that perceive the value of being associated with Coritiba FC. Marketing activities include books, posters, magazines, the club’s website, and the licensing of the Coritiba brand.



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