Students play with soccer balls at a school in Fuyang, Anhui province, in February. （Zhang duan / Xinhua）
China will soon launch a sports industry investment fund to stimulate sports-related business and brands, the General Administration of Sport of China said on Friday.
The sports governing body and the Ministry of Finance are now jointly studying the feasibility of the fund, said Liu Fumin, director of the sports economy department of the administration. He did not announce when the fund would be formally launched.
Meanwhile, the government is also drafting an industry development plan for outdoor sports, Liu added.
The efforts are part of a central government plan to promote mass-market sports and high-quality development of the sports sector. The plan was released by the State Council in September.
"Local governments should leverage fiscal funds and State-owned capital to attract more social investment to encourage the establishment of sports industry investment funds," Liu said at a meeting in Beijing on implementing high-quality development of the sports sector.
Liu said the administration is working with the National Development and Reform Commission to draft the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), which will address allocation of funds from the central government budget to support sports facilities.
"There's huge potential in the sports market," Lian Weiliang, vice-minister of the NDRC, said at the meeting. "The scale of China's sports sector is set to reach nearly 3 trillion yuan ($427 billion) by the end of this year."
The National Bureau of Statistics said China's sports sector output hit 2.2 trillion yuan at the end of 2017, up 15.7 percent year-on-year. Data for 2018 is not yet available.
Lian said the key to promoting high-quality development of the sports sector is creating a better business climate.
"The government should create conditions to support and cultivate a number of world-class sports market players and sports brands. And more efforts are needed to foster new businesses in the sports sector," Lian added.
The sports sector has become a major contributor to economic output in many developed countries. In China, buoyed by a growing number of people embracing sports as a leisure activity, sports-related consumption has also gradually become an emerging pillar of the country's economic growth.
"As China has become a middle-income country, people have a growing willingness and demand for sports consumption," said Li Yingchuan, deputy head of the administration. "With the new (central government) plan backing high-quality sports industry development, all regions and departments should take actions to solve problems, stimulate sports-related consumption and forge a better-structured sports industry."
Dominated by traditional manufacturers, the structure of China's sports industry should be diversified, with consumption tilted toward intangible products and services, said experts.
"We should pay more attention to new sports and those with great potential to meet diverse needs in the market," said Jiang Xiaojuan, director of the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University.
Jiang said that compared with earlier generations, those born in the 1990s have become more socially aware of the benefits of sports and they prefer healthier lifestyles and spend more time on physical fitness.
"Gyms, outdoor sports and sports venues have become a part of young people's daily lives," Jiang added. "With their growing consumption power, those born in the 1990s will become a key force driving sports consumption."
With a focus on fostering high-quality development of the sports industry, more efforts are needed to innovate better sports products, services and business models and create a better business climate while ensuring implementation of the government's supportive policies are carried out more thoroughly, Jiang said.