Zhang becomes first Chinese member of ECA board

Inter Milan president Steven Zhang has become the first Chinese board member of European football’s European Club Association.

Zhang was elected to the 24-member board yesterday, for a four-year term running until 2023. The ECA represents the interests of 246 professional clubs in Europe.

Zhang was appointed president of Inter last October, after being club director for two years. He is the son of Zhang Jindong, chairman of Chinese electronics retailer Suning Holdings Group, which is the majority shareholder in the Italian team.

Zhang, who is only 27 years old, told a press conference in Geneva yesterday that he would bring youthful energy and enthusiasm, and fresh ideas, to the role.

Agence France-Presse reported he said: “I’m young, but age doesn’t matter. I bring my energy and my enthusiasm, new ideas to European football. I feel ready at my age for the new job.

He added: “Suning have been in football for five or six years, I have been in charge of Inter for three. I’m still in a learning phase.

“I can offer my freshness, my competence and even a global vision of football.

“I started working very young and I went ahead step-by-step. My age is not exceptional at all. In the United States and China many young entrepreneurs hold management positions. The new generation is full of energy and ideas.”

Zhang indicated that developments in media and technology are among the areas where he believes football is in need of fresh thinking. Channel News Asia reported he said: “Football can no longer be limited to the 90 minutes of the game. Technology, video clips and social networks are increasingly important.

“So, in a way, I can bring new ideas… for European football and a more global view and more technology-oriented.”

Zhang joins the board of the European Club Association at a time when its members are engaged in a major debate about the transformation of European club competitions.