Founded in June 1954, Guangzhou Football Team is the first municipal football team in China. The team later became the first professional football club in China to be operated by both the government and an enterprise after its cooperation with the Apollo Group in January 1993. Back in the 1990s, Guangzhou Apollo FC, along with Guangdong Winnerway FC, was major clubs in the Chinese top tier league ever since the reform for professionalism in football clubs in 1994. Guangzhou Apollo FC even finished their 1994 season of the C League (which was the top tier league in China back then) in the runners-up’s spot with 27 points.
However, the club went through a period of stagnation and decline afterwards. The club came last in the race and was relegated in the 1998 league season after winning only 20 points during that season, and for a very long time since then, Guangzhou FC could only play in the second tier league. Peng Weiguo, an influential international footballer of Guangzhou FC, blamed the free fall of the club on the lack of investment. Indeed, the amount of investment for Guangzhou FC during that time was relatively small while professional football was being considered to be an activity which requires a large amount of investment.
GUANGZHOU BAIYUN (1984-1992)
Guangzhou Football Team finished 8th in the 1st Chinese FA Cup held in 1984 and were able to return to the top division at the end of that year. With this promotion, the team became the first Chinese team to gain sponsorship from enterprises when Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. signed a $200,000 annual deal with the Guangzhou Sports Bureau in October 1984. And it was the Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Holdings, which later became the parent company of Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., that took over the club 22 years later and brought the club to the top division.
In 1986, Qi Wusheng was named head coach of Guangzhou Baiyun Football Team. The team later developed into a football club in 1989, yet only came last in the race and was relegated from the C League.
However, with Chen Yiming becoming the head coach, Guangzhou Baiyun FC came back to the top league for the third time in the following season. And thanks to Zhou Suian, who was still a young coach back then, and players such as Mai Chao, Wu Liqun, Li Yong, as well as young talents such as Peng Weiguo, the club was able to secure a runners-up position in the 1992 season. This was the best record for the club before the reform of professionalism in Chinese football industries.
GUANGZHOU APOLLO (1993-2000)
Starting from 1992, the Chinese Football Association launched a structural reform for professionalism in China. On 8 January 1993, Guangzhou became the first joint-stock professional football club in China after the Apollo Group took over the club from the Guangzhou Sports Bureau, and would participate in the C League – the top tier professional league after the reforms – in the following year.
Despite the internal conflicts that led to a downfall of performance at the beginning of 1994 season, the club were managed to achieve 6 consecutive winnings later, which includes a 6-1 slaughter over Shanghai Shenhua FC, and were able to gain a runners-up spot at the 1994 season. Peng Weiguo, along with Hu Zhijun, became famous after that season.
Yet the club was unable to replicate the same result in the following season due to the change of the head coach and conflicts within the club, and finished 5th in that season. The second team of the club was sold to Matsunichi in 1996, leading to an unprecedented occasion in which three clubs from Guangzhou are competing in the C League together. However, Guangzhou Apollo FC experienced another downfall during that year. They finished only 7th by the end of that season. With 9 players leaving the club after the disastrous 1996 season, Guangzhou could barely maintain their position in the top league in 1997.
When Peng Weiguo and Hu Zhijun left the club in 1998, the club could not recover from the change as they had already sold out their second team. To make things worse, the club was unable to compete with those clubs being supported by state-owned enterprises. Guangzhou Apollo went into a free fall and was relegated at the end of the 1998 league season. With the management concerned about the team's insipid display, an investigation was launched which discovered that some players were in collusion with gambling groups and were immediately expelled from the club.
In 1999, the Apollo Group signed a 5-year new deal with Guangzhou Sports Bureau. However, the club only finished 8th in the second division at the end of that season. The recession continued in the 2000 season with no signs of recovery, although the club had invested more than 20 million yuan before the season started. As the result of their downturn at the beginning that season, Guangzhou would have to defeat Beijing Kuanli in the last round of the league in order to avoid the tragedy of relegation. And thanks to Zeng Qinggao’s last minute goal, the club barely survived that season. Thousands of supporters rushed into the field after the final whistle, and the players, as well as team officials, all burst into tears.
GUANGZHOU GEELY (2001)
In 2001, a new Guangzhou FC was formed after merging with Guangzhou Matsunichi, who relegated to the second division in the previous season. With significant investment coming from the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Guangzhou FC were able to finish 4th at the end of that season. It was hoped that the club could push for promotion due to a match-fixing scandal involving the runners-up and the third place. Yet things were not going on the way as expected. In the end, the new sponsor Geely pulled their funding away from the club to distant themselves from the bad publicity.
GUANGZHOU XIANGXUE (2002-2003)
In 2002, the Guangzhou Sports Bureau took over the club once again, and the name of the club was changed into Guangzhou Xiangxue after receiving an 8 million yuan investment from the Xiangxue Pharmaceuticals Group. The club mainly focused on the development of young players during that season and as a result, they finished 11th in the end. Yet the Xiangxue Group continued their investment in the following year and with 8 million yuan flowing into the club, Guangzhou Xiangxue reached 3rd place in the 2003 season.
GUANGZHOU SUNRAY CAVE (2004-2005)
In 2004, the Sunray Cave Group took over 70% stock shares of the club after paying a symbolic fee of 1 yuan, and became the largest shareholder of the club. The name of Guangzhou FC was officially changed into “Guangzhou Sunray Cave Zhongyi Pharmaceutical FC” after receiving a 6-million-yuan title sponsorship from Guangzhou Zhongyi Pharmaceutical Company. With another 6.5 million yuan from Teemall Group and Guangzhou Urban Construction Group being invested to the club in the following year, Guangzhou FC was able to bring in several talented foreign players during the two years. However, they failed to promote to the first division in both seasons despite only losing four matches in each season.
GUANGZHOU GPC (2006-2009)
When Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals Group took over 90% stockholdings of the club in 2006, they were still unable to realize their ambition of gaining promotion after finishing only third in the league.
In 2007, Shen Xiangfu – former head coach of the Chinese Olympic National Team and Beijing Guoan FC – was named head coach of the club. With the signing of players including Xu Liang, Li Shuai, Jia Wenpeng and Ramirez, the performance of the team had been improved greatly. With the support from the fans, the local government, media and other local enterprises, the club won the China League One title for the first time and was able to enter into the Chinese Super League.
On 23 February 2010, however, Guangzhou was relegated back to the China League One in the fallout of a match-fixing scandal that took place in 2006 Season. The club was later taken over by the Guangzhou FA.
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE (2010-Present)
On 1 March 2010, the Evergrande Group took over Guangzhou FC for a fee of ￥100 million and the name of the club was officially changed as Guangzhou Evergrande FC. The club returned to the top flight after winning the China League One with three rounds remaining in the league, which brought back hope for the football fans in Guangzhou
The club set a domestic record for the longest run of 44 unbeaten League matches during the 2011 season and immediately clinched the league title of that season despite there were four games yet to play. This became the first top division title in the history of Guangzhou FC.
The club continued to win their second league in the following season, becoming the first team in China to win the Super League title twice in a row, while also securing the Chinese FA Cup and Super Cup to become triple winners in the year 2012.
In the 2013 season, by scoring 78 goals and winning 77 points unprecedentedly in the league, Guangzhou Evergrande FC claimed the domestic league title three times in a row with three rounds yet to play. The club also won the 2013 AFC Champions League title, becoming the first Chinese side to win the tournament ever since the reforming of Chinese football clubs. Later, the club finished fourth place in the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup.
In 2014, Alibaba Group became another shareholder of the club by investing 1.2 billion yuan to the club. The team claimed their fourth domestic league title during that year, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League three times in a row.
Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC made their Initial Public Offering in 2015, which made them the first Asian football club to go on public. They eventually claimed their fifth consecutive Chinese Super League titles after staying unbeaten for 26 consecutive rounds, as well as their second continental championship in three years. The club finished fourth in the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
At the beginning of the 2016 season, Guangzhou won their second Chinese Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Jiangsu Suning FC in February.
At present, Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC is believed to be the most successful and most influential football club in Asia.