Arsenal first in Chinese hearts

[SOCCER BUSINESS] Arsenal has been skidding in recent weeks, falling out of the English Premier League lead, but it is No. 1 among Chinese fans.

According to a survey by Coventry University's Center for the International Business of Sport of more than 15,000 Chinese, the Gunners were the most popular club in the lucrative Chinese market, finishing ahead of Manchester United, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The English Premier League was the most popular league, finishing far ahead of the Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A.

The most popular national team was Germany, ahead of Spain and Italy.

The choice of Arsenal as the most popular club was somewhat surprising, given its reluctance to tour Asia during the summer preseason. But CIBS researcher Jiajia Song told CNN that Arsenal's popularity may something to do with its German stars Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.

"Fans are more likely to support a club team when players from their favorite national squad regularly make the starting lineup," said Song. "This means players like Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, both German international players and players for Arsenal, are likely to fulfill an important commercial and marketing role for club, country and league."
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