Weekly round-up of sports business news from the Chinese sports industry.
Alibaba co-founder nets Brooklyn NBA deal
The big news of last week came late on Friday evening with reports that Alibaba co-founder and vice chairman Joe Tsai is set to buy 49 per cent of the Brooklyn Nets from Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov at a valuation of $2.3bn (€2.0bn) – an NBA record.
Prokhorov, who also owns the team’s venue, the Barclays Center – which is not part of the deal – will stay as principal owner for the next four years, when it’s expected that Tsai will exercise an option to take a controlling interest in the team.
While this deal is a personal one for Tsai – whose wealth is estimated by Forbes at more than $9bn – the Alibaba Group has other sporting interests: it owns close to 40% of perennial CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande, while the company’s car rental wing sponsors the Club World Cup, which Fifa says may be expanded.
Meanwhile, Tsai bought a professional lacrosse team in San Diego earlier this year and was a big proponent of Alibaba’s link-up with the Pac-12, which will stage its third annual collegiate basketball game in China next month. There’s more on Tsai’s background and his reasons for buying the Nets here.
PGA Tour China back on course
The PGA Tour China is set to resume with a full schedule next year after repairing relations with the China Golf Association (CGA).
The Tour made its debut in 2014 and has launched the careers of European Tour regular Li Haitong, as well as Dou Zecheng and Zhang Xinjun, who recently became card-carrying members of the main US-based PGA Tour.
However, the series was abruptly halted earlier this year when the CGA partnered instead with the Asian Tour, leaving the PGA Tour China with a single tournament in 2017 – next month’s Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong.
The developmental series will restart in 2018 after the two sides signed a four-year deal, with each of the schedule’s 14 tournaments offering at least 1.5m RMB (€194,000/$225,000) in prize money, an increase from the previous level of 1.2m RMB.
As before, the top five money-winners at the end of each season will earn membership of the second-tier Web.com Tour in the following year.
AFL giants to return
Australian Football League (AFL) clubs Port Adelaide Power and Gold Coast Suns will return to Shanghai next year for their second annual clash, following the one-sided fixture at Jiangwan Stadium on May 14, which was the league’s first regular season encounter outside of Australia and New Zealand.
The same two teams will line up again on May 19, 2018 at the same venue, which will be known as Adelaide Arena at Jiangwan Stadium for the game.
Additionally, Port Adelaide has backed down from its insistence Gold Coast gives up wearing its red and yellow jumpers. Initially, the Power feared that Chinese fans might support the Suns because their home colours are close to Team China’s colours, but have since admitted “it’s not that big of a deal.”
Anta finalises Kolon collaboration
Chinese sportswear brand Anta says its partnership with Korean outdoor brand Kolon Sport, set up through one of its subsidiaries, has now been completed, giving the new joint venture company exclusive rights to the Kolon Sport brand in Greater China.
Kolon Sport now joins Italian brand Fila, Japanese brand Descente and Russian brand Sprandi in Anta’s portfolio.
Meanwhile, Chinese fashion designer Masha Ma, who designed some of the Chinese team’s outfits for the 2016 Olympic Games has joined Kolon Sport China as the company’s chief design officer.
Ma, 33, has already launched four labels of her own and is considered one of China’s rising stars in the fashion industry.
Snow concern for 2022 team
The organising committee for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games has formed a “snow affairs work team” to cope with the fact that Beijing and the surrounding area sees very little snowfall during the winter months despite freezing temperatures.
The team has invited experts from Finland and Canada, among others, to assist with snow manufacturing technology to ensure the success of the Games in a little over four years from now.
Beijing will host the majority of the ice events, while the ski events will be held in nearby Chongli. For a reminder of quite how little snow the region gets in January, see these pictures from the IOC’s evaluation commission report, taken prior to awarding the Games to Beijing.
Meanwhile, as France prepares to host the 2024 Olympics, it has been courting China on the topic of bilateral sports exchanges, with former Olympic fencing champion, Paris 2024 ambassador and the current French sports minister, Laura Flessel meeting her counterparts in China and attending the Tour de France Shanghai Criterium, which was won by Chris Froome.
Also this week…
- Shenzhen is one of four cities to have submitted bids to replace Singapore as host of the WTA’s season-ending Finals event.
- Mercedes-Benz adds the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai to its golf portfolio.
- CSL club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan agrees to partner with Dutch side Feyenoord on youth team training and player exchanges.
- AC Milan and adidas agree to end their current kit deal at the end of the season.
- Chinese smartphone maker Huawei signs sponsorship deal for Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup.
- Cricket Hong Kong partners with Cricket Australia in digital venture.
- The CWHL’s historic expansion into China is off to a strong start.
- The “flawed beauty” of the Tour of Guangxi, China’s season-ending UCI World Tour event.
- 78 new resorts opened in 2016 amid China’s winter sports boom.
- How China’s ethnic policies could clash with its quest to become a soccer superpower.
- An Olympic cyclothon – 170,000 kilometres on the making – comes to a premature end.
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.