No game in China anytime soon, says NFL's Young

Thu Nov 8, 2012 8:34am EST
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By Peter Rutherford

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The NFL is enjoying rapid growth in China but it will not stage a game there until the fan base reaches a tipping point to avoid damaging its "brand equity", the head of the league's Chinese operation told Reuters.

Rated by Forbes as the world's richest professional sports league, with over $9 billion in annual revenues, the NFL overshadows rivals such as the NBA and Major League Baseball on home soil, but it is playing catch-up in China.

NFL China Managing Director Richard Young conceded the league had dropped the ball by getting there late, but he is comfortable with the growth in popularity of American football across China's major cities.

"We're not going down the same old route the way some people still do, they look at 1.38 billion people and say, 'If we could just get 5 percent'," Young told Reuters by telephone on Thursday. "When people follow that strategy it's all gone.

"A lot of people try to make very homogenous maxims about China all the time, but we don't believe there's a cultural reason as to why American football is more popular in the United States than it is overseas.

"It's just that we haven't been very active, have not been proactive, in developing it overseas and particularly in China.

"What would we do differently? Start earlier, that's the number one thing."

While Major League Baseball, the NBA, as well as European soccer teams, have staged games in China, Young said there were no plans for the NFL to follow suit anytime soon.   Continued...