Illegal streams more of a threat than China
The drain of players heading to the Chinese Super League shows no sign of abating. There have been rumblings that a cap on spending will be implemented by the Chinese government and it may even be imminent given the amounts of cash being thrown around - or burned, as one official reportedly said.
Western football fans picture the departing players arriving to their palatial mansions, diving headlong into Scrooge McDuck-style swimming pools of gold coins. Certain agents don't even have to travel to provincial China to fill their pools with sovereigns. It's been quite the story so far and will be for the next few years at least.
The Chinese league has all the hallmarks of a bubble-slash-white-elephant but even if it defies the odds to become the most successful league in the world, will we all ever find ourselves tuning in?
The relentless progress of soccer to become the most important, most played, richest sport on the planet may well catapult the league into a sustainable model along the way. That's the business punt the money behind the league is making.
The diversion from a potential brewing economic crisis isn't exactly a unique political move either. There are multiple motives behind the league. Who knows, maybe a nascent Chinese middle class is crying out for expensive mediocre football, overpriced bland beer and food, multiple tv subscriptions and price-gouging merchandise.
For now it's not apparent how paying mid-tier footballers nearly a million a week will pan out, but cursory economics might make you sceptical.
As the next generation of football consumers, (formerly referred to as fans before the marketing people took over), find the notion of paying a subscription to watch games laughable when there's a stream available with two clicks, it's hard to see how the longer-term tv audience will pan out as a revenue source either.
The response from traditional commentators to the money being paid has been some mirth about players going, occasional Grandpa Simpson fist-shaking about the potential damage to careers in their peak and finally a shrug that anyone offered the cash has to consider it.
The real threat to English football isn't a wave of Chinese money draining talent. The real threat is that it's all a bubble, blithely ignoring the fact that you don't have to pay to watch the games if you can use google. The Premier League makes more and more from tv and clubs keep upping the wage-bill ante. The gamble is that they somehow buck all known economic history and become too big to fail. Big gamble.