The Australia China Business Council


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National

Media Release: AFL Shanghai 2018

18 May 2018

By John Brumby AO, National President ACBC
 
This weekend around 5000 Aussie Rules fans will gather at Jiangwan Stadium in Shanghai, China, to watch Port Adelaide take on the Gold Coast Suns.  The venue will be re-named ‘Adelaide Arena’ for the duration of what will be just the second game in AFL history to be played offshore for premiership points.  The Australian contingent will be joined by around 4000 local Chinese fans, as well as 3000 business representatives.  The match looks set to sell out, and could also end up being the most watched AFL game in the history of the sport.  Five million people in China and Australia are reported to have watched last year’s game on television, and with an expanded broadcasting deal in place for this year the number could reach nine million.  It’s yet another reminder that when you score in China, you score big.
 
With both Port Adelaide and Gold Coast struggling to get out of the bottom eight, each would certainly like the premiership points that come with a victory in Shanghai on Saturday.  But there are at least five other reasons why the AFL’s effort to reach into China is important.
 
1.  Sport is a growth industry in China.  Urban Chinese consumers are participating in sport and buying sporting goods in greater numbers than ever before (73 per cent of them, according to McKinsey—by way of comparison, the US figure is 70 per cent.)  But the Chinese Government would like this to go much further.  China’s five year plan for sport, released in 2016, aims to double the value of the sporting sector to $460 billion by 2020.  That’s one per cent of GDP of what is now, in purchasing power terms, the largest economy in the world.  This leads to the second reason why AFL in China is a positive development:
 
2.  Australia is very good at sport.  We’re not only good at playing it—we’re also highly accomplished when it comes to the business and the science of sport.  This is a genuine competitive advantage for our country, and one we shouldn’t be shy about when dealing with a China that is moving from development to consumption-led growth.  The World Economic Forum estimates that over the next 10 years, consumption in China will grow by an average of 6 per cent per annum.  This means it will double from $US4.3 trillion to $US8.2 trillion in a decade.  This growth in consumption is driven by a rising middle class demanding a better quality of life.  Here in Australia we know that sport can be an important part of ‘the good life’, and we also have a good reputation in China when it comes to the kinds of health and wellbeing products that are often associated with sport.  To take just one example, the Australian vitamin company Swisse was one of the top sellers on last year’s Singles’ Day (China’s biggest online discount shopping day, where shoppers spend more than $A30 billion in a 24 hour period).
 
3.  Australia and China share some big challenges.  Australia has an ageing population, as well as an increasing incidence of non-communicable, ‘lifestyle’ diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  This is one of the unfortunate side effects of being a wealthy country, and as China’s wealth increases they are experiencing this too.  As a former State Premier I know the effect rising health costs can have on a Budget.  The Chinese Government is also well aware of this.  Both countries need to get moving—both figuratively and literally.  Increased participation in sport is a great way to improve the health of both the population and the budget bottom line.
 
4.  Sport not only is a business, it facilitates other business.  As an Australian director of the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, I have strongly supported our sponsorship of both the Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast Suns.  Port Adelaide Football Club now has almost 40 Chinese business partners.  Smart businesses know that involvement in sports is a great way to build bridges to new partners, new customers, and new markets.  One important feature of the AFL Shanghai game will be a corporate area where 3000 Chinese and Australian business representatives can network, as well as multiple opportunities to promote Australian products to Chinese markets.
 
5.  Sport builds relationships across cultures.  For the first time in Australia’s history, our most important economic partner is culturally different to us.  That’s nothing to be afraid of—in fact, it creates opportunities for mutual enrichment.  It does, however, mean that we need to make a special effort to cultivate relationships: person to person, business to business, and government to government.  ‘Sports diplomacy’ is one way to do this.  As former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said:  ‘Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers.  It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact.  Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development.’
 
In these five ways, the importance of Saturday’s clash goes well beyond what happens on the field.  The AFL has committed to playing in China for at least the next five years.  My hope is that our great home-grown game will become another positive ingredient in Australia’s most important geopolitical and economic relationship.
 
The Hon John Brumby AO
National President
Australia China Business Council
 
 
 
For further information contact:
 
Helen Sawczak
National CEO ACBC
0407 362 228