Money is often thought of as synonymous with power and influence – in sports as elsewhere – but it’s not often we see such a clear example of a sponsor brazenly attempting to assert their influence as we’ve seen recently in China.
Alisports, the sports wing of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, last year announced a $150 million investment into eSports through a partnership with the International eSports Federation (IeSF). That was followed up by a 10-year deal to promote the Chinese city of Changzhou as an eSports hub, with the city set to host a number of World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) events, offering total prize money of $5.5 million, while another Chinese city, Suzhou, was also designated by Alisports as a major international sports city, with eSports also a central part of that aim.
China’s long-term soccer plan calls for the country to be a global force in the game by 2050, but if China’s latest football project comes off, it would arguably become a major footballing power long before that.
The plan has been laid out by the Chinese government, backed, of course, by President Xi Jinping, but the latest moves have come from one of the country’s biggest companies – Wanda, whose boss just happens to be China’s richest man.
After a breathless few weeks during which the entire sporting world has been talking about Chinese football (with yours truly quoted by AFPthreetimes, FTtwice, El Pais, Hicimos, Vice Sports and interviewed by CCTV, BBC and Al Jazeera among others), let’s take a look at a few stories that could be cropping up over the next 12 months…
Chinese President Xi Jinping can do many things, but bringing a World Cup to China won’t be one of them.
We’ve covered Xi’s love of soccer – manufactured or otherwise – several times here on China Sports Insider, but the subject is back in the news again after his recent comments on promoting the game in China. First thoughts are the moves being made do look like sensible, long-term overhauls, rather than the short-term, quick fixes that government officials have previously initiated solely to gain attention and/or promotion (see Beckham, David).
When it comes to the 2022 Olympic Games, FIFA – not the IOC – is holding the joker in the pack. And that Joker is far closer to Heath Ledger’s dark portrayal of the character than anything that faintly resembles amusement.
The Chinese are watching the World Cup in their droves, with some staying up so late that three people have now reportedly died from World Cup-related sleep deprivation. 118 million posts about the World Cup were written between June 12-17, but FIFA, in all its infinite wisdom, has no official online presence in China. Here’s more:
Sam Pearson has spent the last eight years working in the Chinese sports industry, most recently in the role of Senior Manager, Marketing Solutions Asia Pacific for the WTA, after previous stints with Ruder Finn and OCEANS Sports Marketing . He returns home to Wellington, New Zealand, to take up a position as Regional Sales & Marketing Manager for the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015. Shortly before leaving China, Pearson spoke to China Sports Insider about the current state of the sports industry, as well as the changes he’s witnessed, the future of men’s and women’s tennis in China – and being linked to a tennis star in China’s gossip pages.