China Digest | DDMC takes on LaLiga rights

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

DDMC takes on LaLiga rights 
Sports agency DDMC has acquired LaLiga media rights in China until 2022 for an undisclosed amount. Suning-owned streaming platform PPTV had originally paid €250m for the rights in a deal running from 2015 to 2020. However, DDMC and PPTV will now negotiate on whether PPTV receives exclusive rights for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, while DDMC will grant PPTV first option on any distribution deals in subsequent seasons. DDMC and Suning last year partnered on a new sports rights company. Forty per cent of that joint venture is funded by Suning Sports, who last week confirmed it had raised $300m in Series A fundraising.

Man Utd strikes Ping An partnership
Manchester United has announced a multi-year partnership with China's Ping An Bank, which will now offer Manchester United-branded financial services to Chinese customers. Starting with the launch of a branded credit card, the partnership will see a series of events and appearances from former Manchester United players in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The official press release also made mention of the club’s “100 million-plus Chinese followers”, though it’s important to note that the club’s own definition of “follower” in China refers to anyone who has an interest in Manchester United’s fortunes, including fans of rival clubs. Ping An has been the title sponsor of the Chinese Super League since 2014.

Chinese investors already out at Northampton Town 
Guangzhou-based firm 5USport has sold its stake in Northampton Town just ten months after becoming a majority shareholder, citing overseas investment restrictions. Following their investment in June last year, 5USport’s Tom Auyeung and Oliver Zheng were appointed to the League One club’s board, but both have now stepped down and their shares have been reacquired by existing directors. A club statement said “the UK investment required by the club [has] been more problematic and the necessary funding has proved challenging due to what has been explained as overseas investment restrictions”.

IOC president claims North Korea Olympic commitment
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says Kim Jong-un told him North Korea is committed to participating in both the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the Beijing Winter Games in 2022. Bach spoke to an Associated Press TV crew in Pyongyang after watching a football match with the North Korean leader, before telling media in Beijing the next day that the IOC would discuss potential joint activities between the two Koreas in Tokyo and Beijing “at the appropriate time”. Meanwhile, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua says the preparations for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games are progressing well, with venue construction on schedule and many legacy venues from Beijing 2008 being reused. It reports that Bach believes the Beijing Games will set a new standard for sustainability.

Li Haotong Adidas switch confirmed 
Chinese golfer Li Haotong’s switch to Adidas has now been confirmed, after his multi-year deal with rival Nike finished at the end of 2017. The 22-year-old is the youngest player in the world’s top 50 – and the highest ranked Chinese golfer in history – after edging out Rory McIlroy at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. Li was already wearing Adidas apparel at that tournament, but the sportswear firm only officially announced the deal last week. Li will play a mixed schedule this season between the PGA and European Tours. 

CEFC China Energy in sell-off claim
Bloomberg says troubled Chinese conglomerate CEFC China Energy has put all its properties up for sale. The report did not list the assets in detail, but it’s thought this would also include Czech soccer club Slavia Prague, which was purchased by CEFC in 2015. Later reports say a CEFC subsidiary is being sued on multiple fronts by China Everbright Bank, whose parent group owns a controlling stake in sports-rights agency MP & Silva.

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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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