By Sportswriter Xu Zheng
BEIJING, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Animated by the success of the 2016-2017 season, Chinese Volleyball League (CVL) organizers are looking to boost the sport in China, pushing forward all-round cooperation with partners and making more achievements, a top Chinese volleyball official has said.
With the country's top volleyball league recording positive growth this season, officials say they now hope to have more clubs involved, see more star players emerge and also achieve good results at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
CVA vice president Li Quanqiang pointed out the success of Chinese women's team at 2016 Rio Olympics and noted that all the players came from the domestic volleyball league. Li also said that in recent years, the CVL has made landmark achievements like establishing a young players growth channel.
"The CVL is the cradle where players grew up. If we can strengthen the league, we can have more players to choose from for the national team. So the next step is to expand the CVL by adding more qualified teams," said Li.
The CVL now has 12 teams in both men and women's volleyball. In the 2005-2006 season, the CVL expanded to 32 teams each but it turned out to be a failure, as the newly added teams played below expectations, and the second division of the league didn't have enough teams.
"Of course, we would have an access system for the teams; the CVL is the highest level of China's volleyball, we have to ensure that," added Li.
The CVL chose a new commercial partner in the IRENA Group before this season, and this is considered to be a long-awaited reform. This season's CVL saw an overall increase in spectator numbers compared to 2015-2016 season, with the finals seeing an especially significant increase. There was an average of nearly 3,000 spectators per match. Other major achievements included the All-Star weekend, use of the challenge system and an LED display during all matches for the first time.
Gao Chao, president of IRENA, promises to push the CVL to become as prosperous as China's other two top flight leagues, the CBA and CFA. He said that they are working towards having a sustainable league which would go as far as improving the game and its players.
"The added exposure doesn't just help players learn and refine their game. More broadcasts can bring in more fans who have not yet seen the pace and power of pro volleyball," said Gao.
Li Quanqiang, also director of the volleyball department of China's General Administration of Sport, said that there will be more changes in the coming seasons. One of them will be fully opening up the transferring market among clubs.
"As of today, I cannot say that the CVL is a professional league, so it is hard for the clubs to buy players from others. This will change in the following seasons. The clubs can buy overseas players nowadays, and they will buy domestic players easily as well. An opening market is the foundation of and precondition for a prosperous volleyball league," he said.
Li added that the plans were underway, but that results will take time. The CVA will futher step up cooperation with IRENA, especially in the fields of opening up the market and pushing forward professionalism in volleyball. Li also noted that the growth of the sport has been steady but not rapid.
Unlike soccer, in which international games are spread throughout the year, volleyball players go through a league season and an international season. After the CVL concludes in March, the national team will gather in May, and the first match for the Chinese team will be the FIVB women's Grand Prix in July. This means there is not much time for an off season.
"There are many well-organized and famous professional leagues in soccer and basketball, but volleyball is different. We cannot learn much from other volleyball leagues. We have to explore our own way to create a successful and sustainable professional volleyball league for elite-level athletes in China. At the same time, we have to maintain a strong women's team; any mistakes that cost bad results in the international stage will be unacceptable," said Li.