Date
22 October 2017
China hopes that its investments in European soccer clubs will boost interest in the sport at home and help the nation emerge as a key player in the field. Photo: Reuters
China hopes that its investments in European soccer clubs will boost interest in the sport at home and help the nation emerge as a key player in the field. Photo: Reuters

Europe football moves seen setting stage for China World Cup bid

Chinese investments in European football clubs are fueled partly by a desire to help the country launch a bid to host the World Cup soccer games in the future, according to a British professor.

“Man City is not a random buy,” Simon Chadwick, chair in sport business at Coventry University Business School, told the BBC.

He was referring to the recent move by Chinese investors to take 13 percent stake in Manchester City’s parent firm.

Ownership of European clubs provides a voice at European confederation Uefa, which can be useful when decisions are made about where to stage future World Cups, Chadwick said.

Gu Xin, from Beijing-based sports marketing firm Yutang Sports, said Chinese investors also see potentially rich economic returns from European football.

Owning stakes in the likes of Atletico Madrid could potentially open the doors to Chinese players appearing in club first teams in Europe, he said.

China has never been a football powerhouse, qualifying for just one World Cup.

But over the past couple of years Chinese investors and firms have quietly been acquiring stakes in football clubs in England, Spain, France, Holland and the Czech Republic.

Reasons include a national desire to look good on the world stage, developing China’s club football and national team, creating Chinese football fan bases, and firms using clubs to build their commercial presence in Europe, the report noted.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping professing a love for the game, businesses that follow the wishes of the top leader and support football may be looked upon favorably by authorities.

Meanwhile, the Chinese also hope that they can develop the sport to such an extent that the nation can one day even try to win the World Cup.

Guangzhou Evergrande, which is 60 percent owned by Evergrande Real Estate and 40 percent by Alibaba, has won the Asian Champions league two times in past three years.

“I think China can win a World Cup,” Chadwick said. “It has the resources, scale and state backing to fast forward 150 years of football development into 10 years.”

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FL/RC

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