Category Archives: Football

More incisive analysis on China’s match-fixing scandal

My article for Beijing Cream about the soccer match-fixing penalties handed out in China this week:

The latest penalties in China soccer’s match-fixing drama have been a long time coming – several players, officials and referees were already sent to prison last year – but as announced Monday, they were still fairly significant. In summary:

  • Shanghai Shenhua stripped of the 2003 league title
  • Two teams docked 6 points each going into next year
  • One team docked 3 points
  • Three teams fined 1 million yuan
  • Four teams fined 500,000 yuan
  • Five teams’ registration annulled
  • 33 individuals banned for life (eight players, seven CFA officials, four refs, 14 club/league officials)
  • 25 individuals banned for five years (seven players, three league officials, 15 assorted club officials)

A few things stand out. First, a reminder that long before the failed Drogba-Anelka experiment, Shenhua used to be quite good. Yes, they bought the title in 2003 (though quite why they had to fix a game against the now-defunct Shaanxi Guoli, a club that finished bottom of the league by eight points that year, is beyond me). But prior to 2011, the club had finished outside the top six just three times in 29 years. Their last two finishes? 11th and 9th.

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Weekly Wrap: Football, football, table tennis and more football

Huddersfield Town in China farce

This is just ridiculous. English football club Huddersfield Town has announced plans to “make its first foray into China as part of the Club’s wider International Development plan.”

From what I can work out from their convoluted press release, the club, who currently sit 18th in the Championship (i.e. near the bottom of English football’s second tier) are taking a delegation of businessmen to China for a week in April to explore opportunities because, you know, everyone loves football.

Continue reading Weekly Wrap: Football, football, table tennis and more football

Manchester United’s Chinese cash cow

Hong Kong’s lucky, lucky football fans will catch a glimpse of Manchester United’s triallists, youth team players and kit men on July 29th when they play Kitchee FC at Hong Kong stadium.

Hong Kong’s reigning champions announced the news this week with Man Utd club ambassador Peter Schmeichel making all the right noises about it being a serious game and an important part of the club’s pre-season plans, so fans, he said, should snap up tickets fast.

Those tickets, which go on sale later this month, will be priced between HK$390-990 (with students and old folk eligible for a slight reduction). That’s a lot of money to see a team that won’t resemble anything like the Manchester United the fans all know.

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What’s next for Chinese football?

Here’s my weekly Sports Talk column from the Global Times, entitled “Star exits don’t matter in bigger picture”

With all the negative headlines surrounding the recent departures of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, it is important to keep some perspective about where this leaves Chinese soccer.

Was it disappointing? Yes, but their exits came as no surprise. The pair had long been rumored to be on their way out, and they are hardly the first foreign players to have left before fulfilling their contracts.

It is far more embarrassing, though, for the club and its flamboyant owner, Zhu Jun, an Internet entrepreneur whose ambitions appear to have wildly outsized his bank balance.

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Soccer match-fixing villains: ringleaders of Asian origin

Mafia bosses, triads, kungfu gangs, invisible ninjas, Samurai swordsmen. Presumably that’s what Europol meant it said “ringleaders of Asian origin” had conspired to fix nearly 700 soccer matches for illegal betting gains. Europe’s police unit was woefully light on details when it announced the news this week so we can only speculate about what exactly has taken place.

Singapore’s Dan Tan, for whom Interpol has issued an arrest warrant, appears to be the major villain of the piece, but Singaporean police have said he’s as good as innocent, so don’t hold your breath.

Is anyone shocked by the match-fixing charges? The biggest surprise to me is that only 2 million euros in corrupt payments were alleged to have been made. Sure, that’s not an insignificant amount of money, but spread out over 680 matches, it’s an average of 2,940 euros per fixed game. Each game has at least one lead actor, but in many cases, two, three, four or more players will be ‘on the take’ and that doesn’t leave a whole load of euros to go around.

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Why you’re a Man Utd fan (even if you don’t know it)

I wrote last week about why Manchester United almost certainly doesn’t have 108 million fans in China. That’s because the club doesn’t have fans, it has “followers” – exactly the word that made me suspicious in the first place. I might follow people on Twitter or Weibo, but it certainly doesn’t make me a fan.

Not surprisingly, the club is sticking to the script. Man Utd has confirmed to me that the figure was taken from what it calls a “robust survey” commissioned by the club and conducted between June and August 2011 by “leading marketing research agency” Kantarsport.

Leading agency? Well, they are part of WPP, so it figures that they know what they are doing. Robust survey? That’s a matter for debate. The club asked more than 53,000 people in 39 countries – approximately half the number of countries in which United have sponsorship deals, by the way – and came up with a total fanbase of 659 million.

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Japanese paint? Seriously?

OK so this Manchester United thing is getting a little silly now. The club announced today that they have signed a three-year deal with Japanese paint manufacturer Kansai, who become (drum roll please) United’s first official paint partner. Yes, paint.

I think this quote from Man Utd commercial director Richard Arnold says it all: “Kansai is the perfect company to partner with Manchester United.”

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