SINGAPORE: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s push to promote football in his country is bearing fruit with the help of English Premier League clubs, a top Manchester City executive said Wednesday.
City’s chief commercial officer Tom Glick, speaking on the sidelines of a business conference in Singapore, said Chinese investments in English clubs like City reflected a growing appetite for sport in the world’s most populous nation.
“We have a relationship with the Chinese ministry of education where we have 30 coaches in nine cities, working every week with 12,000 students, boys and girls, and their teachers to learn the sport of football, develop skills and the passion for it,” Glick told Agence France-Presse.
“This is central to the government’s initiative,” he said.
Last year, Xi released a 50-point plan to turn the country into a “football powerhouse”, including proposals to set up 50,000 football schools across the country.
As part of a pre-season tour, City visited China in July, playing one game with German club Borussia Dortmund after a showpiece derby against Manchester United was called off because of torrential rain.
State-backed China Media Capital (CMC) announced a 265 million pound ($355 million) investment deal for a 13 percent stake in Manchester City Football Group (CFG) last December, two months after Xi turned up at the club’s academy during a state visit to Britain.
As well as Manchester City, who are the current Premier League leaders, CFG also owns New York City FC and Melbourne City FC and is a minority shareholder in Japanese club Yokohama F. Marinos.
Chinese investors have been beating a path to the English Premier League.
Last month, West Bromwich Albion announced a deal to sell the club to a Chinese investment group headed by entrepreneur Guochuan Lai.
Second-tier clubs Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both of which play in the same Midlands region as West Brom, have been taken over by Chinese investors.
Glick said it was “no surprise” that China continues to eye English clubs.
“The Premier League, I think by an objective measure, is the best and most important league in the world,” he said.
He also said there was a “hunger on the part of Chinese business people to grow the options and choices for Chinese citizens to enjoy sport, media and culture.”