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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

Chelsea "will freeze ticket prices in all competitions next season for the sixth time in eight campaigns," according to Tom Pilcher of REUTERS. The freeze "covers season tickets, individual matches and entry to the hospitality lounges." Club CEO Ron Gourlay said, "Economic conditions remain tough for many people, and the club would like to thank our supporters for the consistently very good attendances we have had throughout this season" (REUTERS, 3/4). The AP reported the freeze comes "amid fan discontent at Stamford Bridge." Supporters "have been loudly protesting at matches" since Champions League-winning Manager Roberto Di Matteo was fired and the unpopular Rafa Benitez was hired in November until the end of the season (AP, 3/4).

European football clubs have shown increasing efforts to make a name for themselves on Chinese social media and connect with Chinese fans online, according to a survey by Mailman Group. The Shanghai-based company released findings from its "Red Card: 2013 China Digital Champions League" that addressed teams' digital competency across the two key spaces, which dominate the Chinese social media landscape: Sina and Tencent Weibo. Western football clubs and int'l brands face a major challenge in China’s digital market, where familiar outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are non-existent and an entirely parallel social media ecosystem has emerged. To provide deeper industry insight and help marketers better understand how football clubs are using specific social media marketing techniques, Mailman Group analyzed 14 teams' accounts across five verticals: total follower numbers, official presence, engagement rate, localization and popularity. Mailman Group CEO Andrew Collins said: "We are seeing more and more football clubs powering their way through the intricate world of Chinese social media. Insights from this study not only confirm that Chinese consumers have a strong interest in European football, but it is also a wake-up call to the market's biggest players."

  • The study found a total of 15.6 million football fans accross 14 teams' social media accounts. A significant increase from '11.
  • 57% of the clubs analyzed have an official -- authorized -- presence the three platforms (Sina Weibo, Tencent, RenRen).
  • 36% of the teams are not yet present on both major networks (Sina Weibo, Tencent) and 7% of the teams have not yet opened an approved official page on any of the social networks examined.
  • The research found evidence to state the top reason for social media users to follow a team is the presence of celebrity footballers. Popular footballers such as David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo drive 40% of Chinese fans to follow a specific team.
  • Another 26% of fans consider performance in the league as the main reason to follow a team's page.
Surprising findings in terms of demographics suggest that more than 30% of the active football fans considered were female. There are several reasons to explain this interesting statistic. Firstly, the tendency of Chinese fans to watch football games at home via video streaming sites rather than in bars. Sport viewing has become an opportunity for a family/friend gathering rather than a night out. An equally important factor that drives female Chinese fans to follow the sport is of course the "sex factor." Celebrity players are the driving factor as to why fans watch football, even more so for the female demographic (Mailman Group).

The "Red Card: 2013 China Digital Champions League" report.

Red Star Belgrade coach Aleksandar Jankovic said that players at the debt-ridden club "are so deprived of their incomes they are unable to pay for food and rent," according to Zoran Milosavljevic of REUTERS. Jankovic revealed that first team players "have only received three minimum wage payments" amounting to a total of around €600 ($780) each since November. Red Star's debts are estimated to be in excess of €50M ($65M), "a vast sum in Serbia's dilapidated" football structure almost entirely dependent on exporting talent to wealthier European rivals. Jankovic said, "The situation has never been as grave as it is at the moment and the players' very existence is at stake here. The problems are mounting, there is no solution in sight, and I don't have a magic wand" (REUTERS, 3/5).