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England Football Team Best in World - So Say 1.3 Billion Chinese

A new study of the strength of interest in international football across China by Warwick Business School shows that not only is the England team shirt the most popular football shirt across China, England is also by far Chinese football fans' most favored international team beating Brazil, Argentina and Germany.

Dr Sue Bridgewater, a researcher in the University of Warwick's Warwick Business School carried out research among football fans in China for the English Football Association during World Cup 2006. Her study, presented to the FA this month, shows much more interest among Chinese fans in international football (78.01%) than Chinese local football (31.24%). English football fared best of all among such supporters. In major tournaments where China was not present, 96.3% of Chinese fans supported another international team. England was by the most supported "second" team (26.35%), followed by Brazil (20.61%), Argentina (11.82%), Italy (10.81%) and Germany (10.81%).

When Chinese fans were asked which team they had seen most frequently England fared even better: 27.2% listed England followed by Brazil (12.9%), Italy (11.2%). Next came English Premiership club Manchester United which, at 9.5%, was rated above all remaining international teams.

The research found that the most commonly seen international football shirt in China was the England national shirt (40.56% of respondents report seeing it very often). 30.42% of respondents report seeing Manchester United shirts very often and 29.72% Italy shirts. A number of shirts are most reported as seen often (Italy 36.04%, Argentina 35.66% of respondents, Real Madrid 29.22%) and AC Milan (29.72%). Those recorded as being "not seen often" included Spain, Chelsea, Germany, France and Inter Milan.

When Chinese fans were asked to rank of the top three international football shirts seen in China. they listed England first (43.9%) some distance ahead of Real Madrid (12.14%). The shirt most commonly listed second was Manchester United (21.75%) followed by Brazil (19.85%). AC Milan was most frequently listed third (27.51% of respondents).

54.14% of the fans surveyed owned a football shirt. Again England came top - 19.6% owned an England shirt, 13.9% a Manchester United shirt, 8.8% AC Milan and 8.23% Italy. Almost one quarter owned more than one international football shirt. Over 75% of respondents knew where to buy an England shirt and almost the same percentage could buy one locally in a sports good store or market. England shirts were available in all the Chinese provinces covered by this research.

70.64% of respondents followed the Chinese national team but levels of active support by match attendance, or consulting media about the Chinese national team were lower (only 27.1%) of the levels than those for local Chinese football. This probably reflected the higher frequency and proximity of Chinese club football compared with the lower frequency of Chinese presence in international competition. When asked to list their post popular local Chinese the top teams were Beijing Guoan, Dalian Shide, Shandong Luneng and Shanghai Shenhua.

Peter Dunn | alfa
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