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Man City's owner plots China expansion

By ANGUS McNEICE | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-03-27 21:41

City Football Group, the parent company of Premier League heavyweights Manchester City FC, may soon add a Chinese Super League team to its growing global family of soccer clubs.

Man City's owner plots China expansion

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shakes hands with the club's manager Pep Guardiola during a game earlier this month.  [Photo/Agencies]

Tom Glick, CFG's chief commercial officer, said the company is actively pursuing commercial opportunities in the Chinese market, including a possible move to secure a CSL team.

Manchester City's brand has expanded rapidly since it was purchased by a group of Abu Dhabi investors in 2008 and CFG has established, or invested in, clubs worldwide, accruing sponsors and supporters in soccer markets outside Europe.

"We're quite active in China right now," Glick told London paper City A.M. "It's an incredibly exciting place for football. When I'm on the ground there, which is a few days every month, I'm seeing first-hand the big focus that the central government has put on it."

Last year, the Chinese Football Association released a 50-point, 35-year plan aimed at developing Chinese soccer, part of President Xi Jinping's drive to turn China into a footballing powerhouse.

Glick said: "We want to add value and help in any way that we can with the mission that China is on and that could perhaps involve a club at some point."

CFG launched a North American Major League Soccer team from scratch in 2013. The following year, CFG bought a club in Australia that it rebranded as Melbourne City FC. And in 2014, CFG purchased a 20 percent stake in Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos.

The large family of clubs enjoys sponsorship synergies and exchanges among players and staff.

CFG is rumored to want to start a club in Uruguay, which could streamline player movement out of South America.

The company opened a commercial office in Shanghai in 2016, leading many to believe it was about to take an interest in a local club.

Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford University, pointed out that there are already three big clubs in the Shanghai market.

"Would these clubs countenance the idea of further competition?" he said. "And will the Chinese government and the CFA be willing to accommodate such a club? There are some structural and institutional constraints that may hinder such a development. However, one suspects that these will ultimately be dealt with, resulting in a new city franchise being opened in one of China's large urban conurbations."

Chadwick points to existing ties between Chinese entities and both CFG and Abu Dhabi that may aid the brand's entry into the market.

In 2015, Chinese consortium CMC bought a 13 percent stake in CFG for $400 million.


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