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Shanghai showcase set for June

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-14 09:08
Players from the Gold Coast Suns and Port Adelaide Power pose after their AFL match at Shanghai's Jiangwan Sports Stadium on May 14, 2017. AFL MEDIA

It seems everyone wants a slice of the lucrative Chinese sports market as more and more top foreign leagues are coming here for special showcase events.

The NBA and the NHL have created the biggest splash, and the next one hoping to gain a higher profile with Chinese fans is the Australian Football League, which will kick off at Shanghai's Jiangwan Stadium on June 2 when the St. Kilda Saints take on the Port Adelaide Power in round 11 of the AFL's regular season.

When Port Adelaide, one of the oldest clubs in the AFL, helped introduce Aussie football to China two years ago, many thought it was a long shot since the game was almost totally unknown here. But this will mark the third appearance in Shanghai for the Power, which has won 36 league premierships since 1870.

Meanwhile, the Saints will become the first club to play for premiership points in three countries, following forays into New Zealand in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Both club bosses are stoked about the potential of the Chinese market.

"There's the commercial outcome, but it's also a chance to grow our fan base," Saints CEO Matt Finnis told Fox Sports.

"There are so many Chinese students in Melbourne. Monash University, one of our performance partners, has 10,000 Chinese students. Playing in China differentiates our club in a very competitive market.

"This is an opportunity that will significantly strengthen our club on so many levels. The backing of our players and coaches, the ability to invest immediately into our football program and the potential for short, medium and long-term commercial growth makes playing in China a very attractive proposition."

The AFL is equally enthused.

"Port Adelaide has been a leader in engaging the Chinese market for the past few years and St. Kilda has sought the opportunity to join them in playing future premiership matches there," AFL executive Travis Auld told Fox Sports.

"To be able to commit to playing matches in Shanghai for at least the next three years will allow both clubs to develop long-term engagement strategies both here in Australia and in China."

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