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China’s Ke Hua Sports to invest in Sporting Lokeren

The Daknamstadion, home ground of Sporting Lokeren, pictured in 2014. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Belga Photo/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

Chinese football academy operator Ke Hua Sports has agreed to invest in struggling Belgian football club Sporting Lokeren.

The club’s chairman Louis de Vries revealed the partnership at a press conference last week. He said the details were still being worked out, but it would be a multi-year agreement, would involve Ke Hua purchasing a minority shareholding in the club, and would see Chinese players moving to the club. Sporting Lokeren would also “be the instrument to further roll out European football expertise and knowledge in China”, de Vries said, reported by Belgian news website HLN.be.

Sporting Lokeren currently sit bottom of Belgium’s second division, having been relegated from the top division last season. The club has also been hit with a transfer ban by the Belgian football association.

De Vries said Sporting Lokeren’s ownership would remain in Belgian hands. He said club officials had met with Ke Hua Sports several times and were “able to convince them that we had something to offer. With their help, we want to further expand the Sporting Lokeren project”.

He also said the Chinese group would be providing funds to support the club in the near future: “A payment from China is coming soon. A little earlier than agreed, given our current situation, which gives us more room to manoeuvre and in this way we want to have the transfer ban lifted as soon as possible.”