Starting in 2015, the Chinese American Football League will be in full swing.
The new league will use Arena Football rules—games will be played indoors on a 50-yard field with eight players per side. There will be six to eight teams representing major cities, each with a 20-man roster. The season will start after the American Arena season ends.
The league is expected to include Chinese and American players, coaches and referees. In partnership with coach Dick Vermeil and former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, the co-owner of the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul, Marty Judge, travelled to China and gained approval from the Chinese government to introduce competitive football.
In 2013, Jaworski sponsored an Arena Football League exhibition game in Beijing. He said, “This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring our great sport to China, and to do it with the cooperation of the Chinese government. I strongly believe American football will meet the insatiable sports demand from the growing Chinese consumer base, especially among the younger people.”
Although American football faces barriers entering the Chinese market, it has developed a significant grassroots following. There are currently an estimated 14 million American football fans in China, according to NFL research. Certain games, highlights, and the Super Bowl have been airing for Chinese audiences for several years. Judge envisions the Chinese American Football League having 30 teams within five years.
With over 1.4 billion people, China is the world’s most populous country by far, so it’s not absolutely out of the question that the CAFL could ultimately become bigger than the NFL.
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