Chinese Fans’ Engagement with Football: Transnationalism, Authenticity and Identity

Jonathan Sullivan, Yupei Zhao*, Simon Chadwick, Mike Gow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
474 Downloads (Pure)


Football in China is undergoing an unprecedented expansion, the result of targeted industrial policy, private sector investment, and the increased popularity of the world’s most popular game in the world’s most populous nation. Yet, as China’s own football infrastructure matures and there, little is known about Chinese football fans themselves, the ways in which they express their fandom, or the methods by which they consume football. This study aims to take a first step in identifying and exploring football fandom in the People’s Republic of China, with a view to critically understanding the context out of which it has emerged, and its likely trajectory of development in the short-to-medium term. Adopting an inductive approach to survey research to explore the attitudes, behaviours and activities of Chinese football fans, an online survey resulting in 710 usable responses was conducted on a Chinese online survey platform Wenjuanxing (问卷星) for three weeks in March 2018. Our research identifies similarities with fandom found elsewhere in the world, yet with key differences generally characteristic of Chinese football fans resulting from the geography, distance and league structures of China’s domestic football infrastructure. A tendency to support more than one club, often one domestic and one foreign club, is also noted, with distinct methods of consumption which eschew traditional forms such as match attendance.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Global Sport Management
Early online date9 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2021


  • China
  • football
  • sport
  • state building
  • symbolic power
  • Bourdieu


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