China eyeing nationwide boom in pitch construction

2021-01-04 12:06:49

[Photo/Xinhua] China plans to achieve "full coverage" of soccer facilities in all urban communities nationwide by 2035, according to a document jointly issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the General Administration of Sport of China. The document also stipulates that all newly built or under-construction communities in China should have at least one non-standard soccer pitch by 2025. By 2035, standard soccer pitches will be built in urban communities where conditions allow. The Chinese government launched a soccer construction pilot project in nine cities, including Wuhan, Hubei province, and Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in April 2019. "By now, 66 standard soccer pitches and 713 non-standard pitches have been built in urban communities in these nine cities through utilizing free spaces such as river banks, beaches, and public parks," Huang Yan, vice-minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said on Tuesday. Promoting the construction of soccer pitches is an important part of China's attempts to reform the domestic game and encourage more people to participate in sporting activities, read the document. "The key to the development of Chinese soccer is to find an effective solution to prioritize the expansion of the soccer population, and step up efforts to enhance public participation," renowned soccer commentator Zhang Lu once remarked. Relatively low rates of participation and a lack of professional-standard soccer facilities have plagued the Chinese game's development for decades. According to data released by the General Administration of Sport of China in November, there were 105,300 soccer pitches covering an area of 295 million square meters by the end of 2019. Among ball sports, the number of soccer pitches is only higher than that of volleyball courts (87,700) and is far behind basketball courts (974,800). According to the document, new residential projects should strictly implement supporting construction standards and regulations to ensure that community soccer pitches with facilities are synchronously planned, constructed, and delivered together with residential buildings. As for the maintenance and operation of pitches, the document states: "Exploring diversified funding mechanisms and government-enterprise synergy should be encouraged. "The local government should attract social capital to construct and operate community soccer pitches with facilities in various forms such as public construction and private operation as well as private ownership with public subsidies. Multiple channels such as financial subsidies, the sports lottery, general welfare funds, and development finance will increase the capital input in community soccer pitch construction." The document also clarifies that soccer pitches should mainly be operated for public welfare. "The 'new era of Chinese soccer' will see stricter spending restrictions for clubs, with homegrown players replacing expensive international stars, and a boom in soccer stadium construction," Liu Yi, the secretary-general of the Chinese Football Association, said in a recent interview.