Arsenal kick Manchester United off top spot as No 1 team for fans in China

A recent survey of soccer fans in the mainland found more support Premier League leaders Arsenal than do former favourites Manchester United

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 6:39pm

Arsenal has edged out Manchester United as China’s favourite football club, according to a recent survey.

The majority of the 15,586 respondents chose the London-based Gunners as their favourite club team and Germany as their preferred national team.

Coventry University’s Centre for the International Business of Sport conducted the survey between September and November on Weibo.

Head of the centre Professor Simon Chadwick said, “Arsenal was a surprise. Although given that Chinese fans like the German national team, the fact that Ozil, Podolski and Mertesacker play for Arsenal make the result rather less surprising.”

The Gunners racked up 3,785 votes, compared with Man United’s 3,210. AC Milan came third with 2,204 votes, followed by Real Madrid (1,959) and Barcelona (1,930).

Arsenal is currently sitting at the top of the English Premier League standings.

Qin Jian, a 15-year Gunners supporter and founder of the 600,000-strong Arsenal Fans Association of China said, “Arsenals fans will be happy when they hear the news, but I think the survey might be a little one-sided.”

Manchester United still had the most Weibo followers: 2.1 million compared with Arsenal’s 1.3 million.

Chadwick said, “Favourite players, success and style of play are all important contributory factors in determining which teams fans support.”

Qin said he chose Arsenal because “their game is very beautiful and [manager Arsene] Wenger always guarantees results”.

He said he did not support a national team but cheered the teams that had many Arsenal players. That used to be England, then France and now Germany.

Germany was the favourite national team with 3,118 votes, followed by Italy (2,488) and Spain (2,418). Despite having the two most popular clubs, England only placed fourth with 2,393 votes. China’s favourite South American national teams were Argentina (1,372) and Brazil (1,120).

But the English Premier League was by far the favourite national league with 7,697 votes, followed by the Spanish Liga (3,910) and Italian Serie A (3,614). Despite the popularity of the German national team, the Bundesliga came in a distant fourth with only 318 votes.

Chadwick said European clubs were particularly interested in China’s emerging middle class with its high disposable incomes, but “the continuing underachievement of China’s national team, issues of corruption and the amount of space required to play football have all contributed to Chinese football being relatively less popular than sports such as basketball”.