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Wanda’s game-changing revolution in soccer industry

By Chen Yaping 14 Jul 2016

Hosting a soccer World Cup has long been a dream not only for Chinese fans, but also for industry leaders, especially the Chinese real estate group Dalian Wanda.

The company, led by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, has cemented its status as a competent player in the global sports market.

According to its first-half figures unveiled recently, Wanda’s revenue has reached about $18 billion, which increased by a better-than-expected 10.6%. More importantly, Wanda’s sports businesses have generated about $4.35billion in the January to June period.

Evidently, these results come from Wanda’s aggressive expansion into the entertainment and leisure businesses as it diversifies away from property.

The latest headline Wanda made is that the group announced the hosting of an annual high-level “China Cup” tournament, to raise the profile of the Chinese national football teams. Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Wanda, plans to use this new tournament to rival the European Champions League.

This news follows Wanda’s March announcement of a new sponsorship deal with FIFA, the world soccer governing body.

China is looking to host a World Cup, to add the world’s biggest football event to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

But frankly speaking, the country still has a long way to go to become an industry leader, due to the fact that its national soccer team currently lies 81st in the FIFA world rankings and it is still in the formative stage of the sports business.

So Wanda wants to become a game changer and cause a revolution in the soccer industry. Impressively, the conglomerate has been moving aggressively into sports promotion in recent years.

In January 2015, the Chinese sports and entertainment giant agreed to buy a 20% stake in Atletico de Madrid football club for €45m ($52m). In February 2015, Wanda purchased Infront Sports & Media, a sports marketing company based in Switzerland, for approximately $1.2 billion. Six months later in August, Wanda purchased the World Triathlon Corporation, owners of the Ironman brand, for $650 million.

On November 25, Wanda Sports was officially set up with two companies, Infront Sports & Media and the WTC, being integrated into one sports unit and Philippe Blatter installed as President and CEO of the new company.

As to the business this year, Wang Jianlin has set an ambitious revenue target for his Wanda Sports Group in 2016. For now though, it is quite reachable for the soccer fanatic and businessman.

At the Wanda-FIBA signing ceremony in June, Wang said he is planning to launch at least 10 international sports events. All those sports intellectual properties will definitely fascinate Chinese sports fans as well as turn China into a sports powerhouse in the future.

Proofread by Sean O Diobhilin

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