Boosting the sports market in Hong Kong

April 25, 2019 19:08
A file picture of the Hong Kong Stadium. Soccer sport in Hong Kong has been suffering amid shrinking audiences and falling media interest. Photo: HKEJ

As we all know, Hong Kong doesn't really have the ecosystem to nurture outstanding athletes, particularly in team sports, in great numbers.

To reverse that situation, local authorities need to think outside the box.

The more popular a sports event is, the more commercial interest it will generate, and hence the more attractive it will be to young talent.

A predicament which Hong Kong athletes face is that they don’t have decent career prospects, and therefore can hardly make a living, if they go pro, given the tiny local market, small audiences and poor value that sports events enjoy here.

Together, these negative factors have deterred many young sport talents from turning into professional athletes.

Take the local soccer scene as an example. With low average game attendances and in the absence of traditional TV re-broadcasts and poor public recognition of star players, one can hardly expect the local soccer league to have a very high market value.

If we are to boost the market value of our soccer league, we must substantially expand our market. To achieve this, the city's soccer clubs should be allowed to compete in professional soccer leagues in the mainland, and ideally, the Chinese Super League.

Only by letting mainland soccer fans become familiar with Hong Kong players through TV re-broadcasts and other means of promotion can we help our home-grown players hit national stardom.

Once a Hong Kong player has become a household name among mainland soccer fans, huge revenues would start pouring in through merchandise sales and other sources.

If every mainland Chinese spends one dollar on you, you could theoretically be worth 1.4 billion yuan in market value. That could make you comparable to, say, Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

Given the realities, Hong Kong's business sector must seize the opportunities presented by the enormous mainland market in order to boost sports in Hong Kong.

Otherwise, it will be difficult for the city to enhance its overall sports development and market value. Overall, it is time for Hong Kong's sports sector to look beyond the Shenzhen River for opportunities.

The government will need to play a facilitating role, as that can prove instrumental in negotiations and in sealing agreements with the central and local authorities in China.

If Hong Kong athletes and sports teams can take part in Chinese national tournaments and league fixtures, the city's sports market will definitely get a big boost.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 13

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ contributor