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Wang Jianlin: Soccer investment can give you influence, but it won't make you money

By Chen Yaping 26 Aug 2016

China’s richest man Wang Jianlin has recently expressed his opinion on soccer investment. “China Inc’s record burst of investment in global soccer could leave investors burnt and out of pocket,” as Reuters cited Wang’s remarks in a recent report.

Actually, this is not the first time for Wang, Chairman of Chinese real estate conglomerate Dalian Wanda, to have reached such a conclusion. In Wang’s view, to acquire a soccer club is more about influence than profit.

Under President Xi’s call to revitalize the Chinese soccer industry, investors like Wang have seen overseas expansion as an opportunity to gain more advanced management experience and introduce more professional talents. As a result, they believe, China would gain a voice in the world of this sport, which will help to turn itself into a soccer powerhouse in the future.

“China has a greater need for more reform mechanisms and game changers than money,” said the Wanda Chairman in a CCTV programme in February.

Earlier this month, media reports said that Wang is looking to reform the Champions League, an annual continental club soccer competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). One source claims that the reform would grow the revenue of the UEFA Champions League by 1 billion euros.

In many analysts’ eyes, Wang has the right to make some revolutionary changes in the market. He is himself an active investor who likes to be involved with international sports icons. At present, Wanda is a stakeholder of Atletico de Madrid FC, owner of Infront Sports & Media and the World Triathlon Corporation and top sponsor of soccer’s world governing body FIFA. Importantly, he has initiated the launch of a revolutionary soccer event, the “China Cup”.

All of the above will not necessarily bring in money right now, but will change the rules day by day. That’s what both Chinese investors and governments really want.

"It can give you influence, but it won't make you money. Every year you're burning through cash - that is certain," Wang said in a recent Reuters interview in Beijing.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s owner Jack Ma, one of Wang’s contemporaries, also shares the same idea in this regard. As he once said in the same programme, “The important thing is, whether you can carry out the soccer reform. Perhaps I don’t know the inside story or don’t even care, but I believe the reform is promising,”

“When I invested in Guangzhou Evergrande FC, it wasn’t just to see them win games, but to get a view of the industry, to figure out why China fails in the soccer world. Mr. Wang doesn’t need more money, but he needs someone to share ideas with, and to find solutions.” Ma added.

Proofread by Sean O Diobhilin

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