In a shocking turn of events, a massive 100,000-seater stadium in China now lies abandoned, a mere three years after the ambitious construction project commenced.
Back in the 2010s, much like the Saudi Pro League today, the Chinese Super League made waves in the football world, with clubs splurging heavily on marquee signings. Millions were poured into luring top talents away from Europe, with memorable moves like Alex Teixeira choosing Jiangsu Suning over Liverpool in 2016 and Oscar leaving Chelsea for Shanghai Port in 2017.
“China’s 100,000-Seater Stadium Left in Ruins as Debt Crisis Hits Football”
The extravagant spending spree persisted for several years, epitomized by Carlos Tevez reportedly pocketing an astounding £615,000 per week at Shanghai Shenhua. Among the successful Chinese clubs, Guangzhou Evergrande stood tall, clinching eight league titles between 2011 and 2019, boasting players like Paulinho and Robinho and attracting renowned managers like Marcello Lippi, Fabio Cannavaro, and Luiz Felipe Scolari.
The club was acquired by the Evergrande Real Estate Group in 2010, and substantial investments flowed into its development, including ambitious plans for the Guangzhou Evergrande Football Stadium. Envisioned as the world’s largest football arena, it featured a breathtaking lotus flower design. At the time, Evergrande’s CEO, Xia Haijun, proudly proclaimed, “Evergrande Stadium will become a new world-class landmark comparable to the Sydney Opera House and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and an important symbol of Chinese football to the world.”
Construction on this monumental stadium commenced in April 2020, with an anticipated completion date in 2022, carrying an estimated price tag of $1.7 billion (£1.36 billion). However, the Evergrande Group found itself entangled in severe financial turmoil, amassing staggering debts of approximately £220 billion.
Despite their financial woes, they persisted with the stadium project. Yet, in November 2021, the Chinese government stepped in and seized control of the stadium with intentions to sell it off.
Surprisingly, a sale never materialized, and the project met its official demise last year when Evergrande canceled its contract to acquire land rights for the stadium. This desperate move was aimed at raising funds to settle their mounting debts.
Today, the Guangzhou Evergrande Football Stadium stands as a haunting monument to this financial crisis, with images revealing half-built stands and encircling cranes. Evergrande sought Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in New York just last month, but they still hold a majority stake in the football club.
Under the new moniker, Guangzhou FC, the team faced relegation from the Super League to the second tier of Chinese football last year, primarily due to the exodus of key players. Currently, they occupy the 12th spot, a mere seven points away from the dreaded relegation zone.
This once-grand project now serves as a poignant symbol of the financial perils that can befall even the most ambitious football ventures.