Hunan Billows F.C.
|Full name||Hunan Xiangtao Football Club
|Founded||26 December 2006
15 January 2004 (unofficial)
|Ground||Yiyang Stadium, China|
|Manager||Patrick de Wilde|
|League||China League Two|
|2017||League Two, 16th|
Hunan Billows Football Club (simplified Chinese: 湖南湘涛; traditional Chinese: 湖南湘濤; pinyin: Húnán Xiāngtāo) is a professional Chinese football club that participates in the China League Two division under licence from the Chinese Football Association (CFA). The team is based in Yiyang, Hunan and their home stadium is the 30,000-seat Yiyang Stadium. Their majority shareholders are the Hunan Provincial Sports Bureau and high-tech industry company Hunan Corun New Energy Co. Ltd.
The club was founded on January 15, 2004 as Hunan Xiangjun to take part in the second tier at the beginning of the 2004 Chinese football league season. After three seasons the club was relegated and faced financial difficulties. To preserve the representation of Hunan province in the Chinese football league pyramid, fans of the club raised three million Yuan in the hopes of keeping the team going. The local Hunan government sports body decided that it would be best to invest on a brand new team for the area and formed a new club called Hunan Billows (Simplified Chinese: 湖南湘军) on December 26, 2006. The reformed club won the 2009 Chinese League Two title and promotion to the Chinese League One division where they have since remained.
Before the start of the 2004 Chinese football league season, Chongqing Lifan and Yunnan Hongta merged their football clubs together. This left a free space available in the second division. The surplus players from the clubs formed a new club called Hunan Xiangjun (or Hunan Shoking Football Club in English). They gained investment from the Hunan Corun New Energy Co. Ltd., which bought the club's registration into the division for 20 million Yuan. On January 15, 2004, the club was inaugurated into the Chinese football league. They hired former Chinese Olympic medalist Xiong Ni as their Chairman and former Chinese international footballer Zhu Bo as their first manager. Playing in the 55,000-seat Helong Stadium in Changsha, the club had international players - Fu Bin and Srđan Bajčetić - while the youth team called Xiangxue Pharmaceutical participated in the 2004–05 Hong Kong First Division League to gain experience. The youth team had limitless success. The senior team fared little better and struggled in their debut season. They finished tenth at the end of the season.
The following season was extremely difficult for the club, Miloš Hrstić came in as manager but had an extremely high profile dispute with the owners about unpaid wages. It was soon discovered that the club were in financial difficulties due to an excessive wage bill for their players along with renting of Helong Stadium. The ownership of the club moved to the company Bailong and their general manager Sun Yingui for a brief period. However this was short-lived and Hunan Corun took over the club again. While this was going on Li Hui was managing the side with little success. He and his players reached a breaking point after a humiliating 5–1 defeat to Shanghai International on June 18, 2005 in a Chinese FA Cup game. Li Hui publicly criticized his players' lack of commitment before deciding to leave the club. Wang Tao was brought in as his replacement to manage the club. The team finished in a disappointing twelfth but remained in the league. Li Kejia was brought in as a new manager in the 2006 league season. The team continued to lose, and former Chinese international Hao Haidong was brought in as a General manager to help inspire the team. This turned out to be fruitless and the club finished at the bottom of the league and were relegated to the third tier.
To preserve the representation of Hunan province in the Chinese football league pyramid, fans of the club raised three million Yuan in the hopes of keeping the team going before the local Hunan Provincial Sports Bureau decided that it would be best to invest in a new team for the area. On December 26, 2006, a new team was formed to participate in the 2007 league season called Hunan Xiangtao (or Hunan Billows Football Club in English) despite Xiong Ni returning as their Chairman and Li Kejia returning as their manager. Now playing within the 6,000-seat Hunan Provincial People's Stadium. The team was completely rebuilt and played their first league game against Sichuan FC in a 1–0 defeat. Throughout the season the club's results improved and the team finished third in the Southern division. They made the play-offs but were knocked out in the second round. With a further investment of six million Yuan from the local Hunan government sports body, in the following season results the club gained another play-off position. Again they were knocked out in the second round. By the 2009 league season and with the continued investment of the local Hunan government sports body and of the management of Men Wenfeng, the club won the division title after they beat local rivals Hubei Greenery in the play-off final to win the division title. In the second tier again they moved back into the Helong Stadium and hired Zhao Faqing as their new manager at the beginning of the 2010 league season. The season began well for the club and they looked like genuine promotion contenders. Conflicts between the Hunan and the Hubei Greenery fans during their May 14 game seemed to derail their promotion push. They finished the season in sixth. The next season they moved into the 20,000-seat Central South University Stadium and brought in Miloš Hrstić to manage them. Miloš Hrstić's leadership improved the team's ranking at the end of the 2011 league season slightly - they finished fourth. He left the club at the end of the season and was replaced by his assistant coach Zhang Xu. In preparation for the 2012 league season the club brought in several high profile players such as Honduras internationals Emil Martínez and Erick Norales and Chinese international Dong Fangzhuo in their hopes to win promotion. The recruitment for not result in promotion that season, but it brought an increase in investment in from the Hunan Liuyang River Wine Winery Industry Co., Ltd., Zoomlion Company Limited, Central South Publishing & Media Group Co., Ltd., Kelme and the return of Hunan Corun New Energy co. ltd.
- 2004–06 Hunan Xiangjun (湖南湘军)
- 2007– Hunan Billows (湖南湘涛)
The team have played in several stadiums throughout their history. When they were formed they predominantly used the 55,000-seat Helong Stadium in Changsha for their important matches. The more modest 6,000-seat Hunan Provincial People's Stadium which is also located in Changsha was used for their smaller games. With the club in financial difficulties the cost of renting the Helong Stadium led the team to move permanently into the Hunan Provincial People's Stadium. They started there when the club was reformed and they were playing in the third tier. When they won promotion back into the second tier, the Helong Stadium was an option for a brief period before 2011 when they have predominantly used the 20,000-seat Central South University Stadium in Changsha as their main stadium.
As of 6 April 2017
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
|Manager||Patrick de Wilde|
|Assistant coach||Li Hongwu|
|Goalkeeping Coach||Yang Guidong|
|Fitness coach||Huang Cheng|
|Team Physician|| Ren Peilin
All-time league rankings
- ^1 In group stage.
- Winners (1) : 2009
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- Official club website (in Chinese)