Premier League woos Chinese fans

CNC report from London; Chongqing
Added On August 18, 2013

Chinese football fans had a cheerful Saturday night watching the first match of the new season of the English Premier League -- Liverpool vs. Stoke. 

And this year, the Premier League's official Chinese microblog is expected to bridge the distance between Chinese fans and their heroes.

Though far away from the field, Chinese fans shared the same passion with the Premier League family on the rest of the world.

Here in southwest China's municipality of Chongqing, some fans of Liverpool gathered around an outdoor screen at the city's Olympic Sport Center to cheer for the team.

"I was led to watch Premier League games by my father. He's a fan of Arsenal, while I love Liverpool. I don't always watch all the matches of Premier League, but I won't miss out one match of Liverpool."

China's Premier League fans keeps expanding since the match started to be aired in China in 1997.

A 2011 survey conducted by a German research group showed that Asia had the largest population of Premier League audience, while China topped the rank.

Some fans said they can get all the excitement of the sport from the Premier League matches.

"I like to see the competition among the strong clubs, like Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. I think it is the best and the most exciting match, like a football battle. And it is also the best platform for the players, I would say the player should go to the Premier League if he wants to prove himself. I also think the Premier League has more variety. Who will be the champion is unpredictable. It's not like the Spanish Premier League which is dominated by two powerful teams."

To tap in the large market of China, the Premier League joined Weibo, China's largest Twitter-like service, just before the new season kicked off.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) DAN JOHNSON, Director of Communications, Premier League:
"Now I think it's a good time to do it, you know, we want to be able to communicate appropriately with our fans in China. I think hitting with ground running just before the season kicks off on Saturday is a great thing."

The weibo account will be managed by Red Lantern Digital Media. Its managing director, Lewis Hannam, says updates will be mainly in Chinese and sometimes in English.

The account will post up-to-the-minute updates on Saturday match days as well as releasing official news, match results and pictures.

It will also organize events for fans to communicate with their favorite players.

Chinese football fans also shared their expectation of the new platform.

"I hope to get some fresh and first-hand information about the Premier League on the microblog. It's better to learn the news from an official channel than from other media. I would like to know the latest about the clubs and players, even some gossip news."