Weekly round-up of sports business news from the Chinese sports industry.
Korea dispute spills into golf, football
Politics tends to spill over into everything in China, including sport. Beijing has long been opposed to Washington’s THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, and Korean businesses in China have been affected, with department store Lotte seeing 80 per cent of its supermarkets in the country temporarily closed. That might explain why Chinese broadcaster CCTV did its very best not to show Korean golfer Kim Hae-rym winning the recent World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills in Hainan. Kim, who wears a hat with a sponsor’s name on it, was only shown on CCTV from long range or from behind. The sponsor? Lotte.
An estimated 10,000 troops turned out to police China’s historic 1-0 victory over South Korea in a Fifa World Cup qualifier last week, which was watched by more than 70m Chinese on television, and saw nationalist euphoria spilling out across social media afterwards.
The current China-Korea friction also gives the AFC’s upcoming election for its Fifa Council spots a little more edge, with China’s Zhang Jian thought to be competing for one of the three spots with South Korea’s Mong Gyu Chung.
NHL Olympics involvement
China’s ice hockey plans – part of the country’s much-vaunted winter sports drive in the run-up to the 2022 Olympics – might also become indirectly affected by Korea as the NHL continues to play chicken over whether it will allow its players to compete in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. The NHL is known to want to expand its reach in China – with the league set to announce two pre-season games in the country later this week – but International Ice Hockey Federation president René Fasel has told the NHL it will be very difficult for them to go to Beijing if they don’t allow the players to go to Korea.
Football: Sponsorships for national team, Inter and CSL; German clubs set up shop; and conference news
A few other pieces of news filtered out of the China-Korea football showdown in Changsha last week. Watchmaker TAG Heuer, already a partner of the Chinese Super League, announced a new deal with the men’s national team. Meanwhile, the World Football Forum, which last year coincided with the conclusion of Euro 2016 in Paris, revealed plans for this year’s event, which will be held from May 18-21 in Changsha. Among those expected to attend is Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldinho, who, at the same press conference, revealed he would be bringing his Globe Street Team (GST) project to China in the search to find China’s best street football team.
Elsewhere in football, various Bundesliga clubs confirmed a report that they had been approached at some point in the past two years by Chinese conglomerate Fosun, who last year purchased English club Wolves, although given the slowdown in Chinese takeovers reported in previous editions of this digest, do not expect any of those “exploratory talks” to progress further.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg have opened offices in Shanghai and Beijing, respectively. Bayern’s director of internationalisation and strategy, Jörg Wacker, claimed the club has more than 136m 'followers' in China.
On the sponsorship front, automaker SWM Motors has agreed a deal to become a regional partner of Inter Milan in China. SWM Motors was founded in Italy, but is now wholly owned by a Chinese holding company, while Inter was acquired by Chinese company Suning last summer. And the Chinese Super League has agreed a deal with Jiangsu Yanghe, making the brewery an official supplier to the CSL for this season, with its Blue Dream product now the league’s official alcoholic beverage.
NBA tour fixtures
The NBA announced its latest China match-ups for this year’s Global Games series, with the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves set to face off at the Universiade Center in Shenzhen on October 5 and then again at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 8. It will be the third visit by the Warriors to China following visits in 2008 and 2013, while the Timberwolves – part-owned by Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang – will make their maiden trip to the country.
Le Tour on tour
Also coming to China later this year is the Tour de France, in the form of a series of themed events. The Tour will make its debut in China on September 10 with the Etape China by le Tour de France, when several thousand cycling enthusiasts are expected to join a ride around the city of Changsha. Then on October 28-29, a peloton of 60 professional riders from both China and overseas will contest a Critérium on a 3km circuit in Shanghai, with a 22km family ride scheduled for the end of the weekend. Chinese actor Ethan Ruan has been named Ambassador for the Tour de France in China.
Also this week…
- Weibo has become the official social media platform in China for Spain’s La Liga.
- Fiba agreed a nine-year extension to its broadcast rights deal with CCTV.
- Higher costs for broadcast rights – notably for the NBA – hit Tencent’s margins (subscription required).
- Sportswear company Anta Sports is planning a share sale to fund an acquisition drive.
- LeEco’s Hong Kong CEO Gao Jun has been appointed COO of LeSports, replacing the recently-departed Yu Hang.
- SportAccord announced Alibaba president Michael Evans will deliver a keynote speech at this year’s conference in Denmark.
- Reuters’ wonderfully-titled 'Empty offices, wary lenders: China's faltering bid for AC Milan' pulls back the curtains on the inner workings of Chinese financing.
- The FT looks at how China’s fitness boom is energising sportswear brands (subscription required).
- The PGA Tour China Series appears to be dead, but elsewhere things might be looking up for golf in China.
The China Digest is written by Mark Dreyer, who runs the China Sports Insider website, which features sports business news and analysis related to China’s fast-growing sports industry. He has worked for Sky Sports, Fox Sports, AP Sports and many others, and has covered major sporting events on five continents, including three Olympic Games. He has been based in China since 2007.