China Digest | China’s leadership targets marathon and cycling

Weekly round-up of sports business news from the Chinese sports industry.

China’s leadership targets marathon and cycling

Each year in March, Beijing hosts multi-day meetings of two large political bodies, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which collectively review the past year and set the agenda for the coming months. The CPPCC gains headlines with its celebrity members, such as Liu Xiang and Yao Ming, while the NPC conducts all the serious business. Sport is hardly a priority at these gatherings, but your correspondent has dutifully combed through the text of the opening day’s speeches. In the National Development and Reform Commission’s review of 2017 to the NPC, sport was listed as part of “the fundamental role of consumption in driving economic growth”. Plans to develop the marathon and cycling industries were specifically mentioned, along with “the integrated development of sports and tourism”. Looking ahead to 2018, sport services was named as one of ten initiatives for boosting consumer spending.

Another Chinese boss reined in by the state

This week’s boss of a large private company to find himself in trouble is Ye Jianming, head of CEFC China Energy, China’s fourth-largest oil conglomerate, whose overseas expansion kicked off in 2014 with a $784m investment into a Czech finance group. That led to Ye being appointed as an economic policy adviser for Czech president Miloš Zeman. CEFC then invested in several Czech companies including a 60-per-cent stake in football club SK Slavia Prague. It later purchased the team’s stadium. With CEFC under state control with immediate effect, the club may yet be returned to local owners.

Cities begin jostling for 2036 Olympics

Some in China have already begun to consider when the Summer Games might return. A political delegate in the southwestern city of Chengdu – panda capital of the world – has submitted a proposal concerning a bid for the 2036 Olympics. Other reports in Chinese media have said that Guangzhou and Zhengzhou have also been weighing up their Olympic prospects. But with many Chinese cities thought to be capable of bidding for the Games by the mid-2030s, Chengdu is looking to position itself at the front of the queue. It’s far from a done deal that an official bid will ever materialize, but with the IOC finding it increasingly hard to attract bids from major cities, and China’s appetite for hosting large-scale sporting events still on the rise, the Olympics could be heading east on a semi-regular basis in years to come.

Super League transfers raise eyebrows

The start of the Chinese Super League season last weekend also marked the end of the league’s winter transfer window. More than 250 transfers were logged by the Chinese Football Association, but, curiously, only three triggered the 100-per-cent transfer tax. That tax kicks in for transfers of foreign players upwards of RMB 45m (€5.75m/€7m). Eyebrows were raised on Tuesday after the CFA belatedly approved the transfers of Atlético Madrid duo Yannick Carrasco and Nico Gaitán to Dalian Yifang, now controlled by the Wanda Group, which sold its stake in Atlético last month. The tax paid on Carrasco – the more valuable of the two – is unknown, but the club somehow slipped Gaitán under the limit, despite Spanish media reporting a sale price of €18m. 

Chinese funds could flow to Australia

With European football seeing a slowdown in – and even a withdrawal of – Chinese investment, the next market to see the funds pour in could be Australia. Despite worsening bilateral ties between the two countries, one report says A-League side Adelaide United is set to be taken over by a Chinese consortium. While it is has yet to become official, it’s thought there is a connection to the Dutch-Chinese group that owns Qingdao Lions in China’s fourth tier. Adelaide and Qingdao are sister cities, while the South Australian government has existing ties to Shangdong province, in which Qingdao is located. If completed, Adelaide would become the second A-League club to be Chinese-owned after the Shenzhen-based Ledman Group bought the Newcastle Jets in 2016.

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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.

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