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Chinese-backed group broadens European soccer portfolio

By Julian Shea in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-05-21 16:55

NewCity Capital makes investment in Belgian team KV Oostende

The Chinese-American owner of investment company NewCity Capital has announced the group's latest investment in European soccer after it was confirmed that it had purchased Belgian top-flight team KV Oostende FC.

NewCity Capital's founder Chien Lee revealed the investment, the group's fourth in a high-level European team, on Twitter and promptly updated his profile to include Oostende's name, alongside those of NewCity's other investments, English Championship side Barnsley FC, and Swiss team FC Thun.

Previously, NewCity Capital owned a stake in French Ligue 1 side OCG Nice, before selling it last summer, and the group is reportedly keen to invest in another team in France.

"We just completed the acquisition of KV Oostende FC, the Belgian first division team and it's our 4th investment in European soccer," he wrote, without going into any more detail of what deal had been struck.

Earlier this year it was reported that United States businessman David Blitzer, co-owner of ice hockey team the New Jersey Devils, basketball's Philadelphia 76ers and a significant stakeholder in English Premier League team Crystal Palace, was also interested in buying Oostende.

Belgium was the first country in Europe to officially abandon its 2019-20 soccer season because of the novel coronavirus.

Oostende finished second-from-bottom of the 16-team league, narrowly avoiding relegation. The club is based in the port city known in English as Ostend, and plays in yellow, red and green. Its history is fairly modest, with its greatest achievement being finishing as runner-up in the 2017 Belgian Cup Final, after losing a penalty shoot-out.

"First and foremost, the investors want to focus on the youth academy and ensure that even more players follow the example of (Belgium under-21 team striker) Jelle Bataille and (Belgium under-19 team striker) Robbie D'Haese and move on to the first team," said a statement about the new investment on the club website.

"In addition, it goes without saying that a new team is being built, with the focus mainly on young, promising players from Belgium and neighboring countries."

NewCity Capital took over Barnsley in December 2017, three months after the club's long-time chief investor, Patrick Cryne, announced in a letter to fans that he had terminal cancer, which claimed his life in January 2018.

That season, the Yorkshire team known as the Tykes, finished bottom of the Championship table and was relegated to League One, only to come straight back up, but when the 2019-20 season was put on hold in England, Barnsley was once again at the foot of the table and facing another relegation. FC Thun are also currently in last place in its their league.

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