London - A major investment from a Chinese consortium gives
Manchester City a good chance of gaining ground on English Premier League
rivals Manchester United and Arsenal for popularity in the world's most
Manchester City announced this week that state-backed China
Media Capital and investment company Citic Capital paid around $400 million for
a 13 percent stake in the team's parent company, City Football Group.
CFG, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al
Nahyana, also owns the New York City and Melbourne City soccer teams and has a
20 percent stake in Yokohama F. Marinos.
City has won two of the last four English titles but lacks
the European success and support around the world commanded by some other
Premier League sides.
United had the most support of Premier League fans in China
at 31.98 percent, followed by Arsenal with 22.65 percent, then Chelsea with a
similar share, according Gu Xin, an analyst at Beijing sports marketing company
Also read: With Man City deal, ‘Chinese dream’ moves closer to reality
City's share was 5.47 percent.
"If City aims to become the most popular European
football team, they will need to contest against not only those English teams
but also other European football giants like Barcelona, Real Madrid or even
Bayern Munich," Gu said. "Overall, it all depends on what the club
European clubs' struggle for marketing success in China is
down to aggressive sales-driven tactics, according to Simon Chadwick, professor
of sports enterprise at England's Salford University.
"This type of approach only disaffects and antagonizes
some Chinese people," Chadwick said. "Hence, City's approach is
rather more considered, and strategic, and could succeed where others have
failed. Working in partnership with the Chinese is the way to break into
City has some advantages in this respect.
Former China international Sun Jihai, who played for City
from 2002-08, was made a club ambassador in September, and was inducted to the
Manchester-based National Football Museum's Hall of Fame in October while
Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting.
"The Chinese president doesn't normally attend such
events unless they are of the utmost importance," Chadwick said. "The
fact that he visited City tends to suggest just how important this deal is for
China and its football ambitions."
"This time last year, China announced a plan to create
a domestic sport economy worth $850 billion by 2025. An important part of this
vision is China's desire to bid for, host, and win the World Cup. Buying City is
a way of acquiring competence, intelligence, and insights into football."
There has been speculation in China that a Chinese club
could be the next addition to the CFG stable, with Beijing Guoan the most
Buying a Chinese club is the next logical step according to
Christopher Atkins, a Guangzhou-based player representative with RWMG Sports,
but just the beginning.
"There is no reason why the Chinese Super League cannot
establish itself as the best non-European league," Atkins said. "The
addition of the knowledge that a company like CFG can bring would surely only
help. I expect CFG to look into the prospect of an academy in China in the
fairly short-term future. If they can produce China's first superstar, their
status in the market would be elevated yet further."For
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