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How big is the Chinese Super League?


Watford's Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo was the last player to move to the Chinese Super League in the transfer window.  He went to Changchun Yatai in the north of China for £20m.   Full details of the players who have made a lucrative move can be found here.

The activities of the Chinese Super League started alarm bells ringing in the Premier League, although they did not get all their targets.   The Chinese authorities have also sought to rein them in, concerned about the leak of money abroad and whether importing foreign players will do anything to build a football culture in China.

It's really six or seven clubs that are spending big money.   Most of these are owned by real estate companies, the main exception being Port Shanghai, which is not an imitation of Port Vale but is owned by the city's port operator   Most of these real estate companies are heavily indebted, but that is par for the course in China.

It's difficult to assess the level of play, although some observers believe that the better clubs are up to Championship standard and the less good clubs equivalent to League One.   The average attendance last season was 24,159, the fourth consecutive year-on-year rise.   That does make the CSL one of the world's ten most popular football leagues.  Away games can involve travelling considerable distances, although there are local derbies in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

CSL clubs generated revenues in the range of $16m - $64m last year, according to Deloitte.  That compares with an average of $359m for the world's 20 richest clubs.  

However, while spending has surged, revenues remain meagre.  Most clubs lose money on transfer fees.  Match tickets sell for as little as Rmb50 ($7).  Hawkers sell fake merchandise around many stadiums and few fans buy official kit,

The jury is still out on whether China will become a global football power, but the CSL has certainly rattled a few cages.