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Wang Jianlin’s opinion on investing in football

By Yingcai, translation by Yutang Sports Wednesday, 29 Apr 2015 18:00

In this changing era where new emerging economy is replacing old traditional economies,  Wanda Group is renewing itself in a speed as quickly as the building of Wanda Plazas. 

In recent two years, Wanda Group started to invest in cultural and sports industry where there were higher values and demands lower investments. Wang Jianlin has bought stakes of Atletico Madrid, and Infront Sports & Media Group without many hesitations. 

Wang has never been too far away from Chinese football. He once invested 500 million yuan support to Chinese Super League, though this amount of money is not very big now when it is compared with the 50 million Euros used to buy 20 percent of Atletico Madrid and the 682 million Euros used to buy Infront. 

“I went abroad to explore football in 1992. I guess there was no one earlier than me. I organized the first football club after coming back in 1993. There was not even a football league in the country.” Wang is very confident in his experience in the football field. He told journalist of Yingcai that he had practical visits to more than ten top football clubs in Europe, and was well aware of management and profits of clubs and leagues. 

He thinks that ordinarily companies want to raise their awareness by participating in the football industry. Now there are about dozens of famous football clubs in the world. Some giant European clubs are even famous around the world. Although their gross value cannot be compared with the top 500 companies in the world, their fame are not weaker than them at all, with great influences and attentions. 

The purchase of Infront Group also reflects the high influence of the sport around the world. The 1 billion Euros investment is far less than what is needed for a Wanda Plaza in China, but it draws attentions of more than 9,000 media around the world, ranging from prints to digital media. Wang was amazed at the high degree of attention and the varieties of media. 

The one billion Euros investments are worth even more than media exposures. Infront has been involved in the football industry for many years, accumulating many resources, and has capabilities of sport event operations and managements, which are all important investment profits for Wanda. Wanda also got talents in the industry, laying a basis for its sports talents in China. It might even help with the development of Chinese sports industry in the future by supplying demanded talents. These are all non-tangible benefits Wanda gained from the purchase. 

Wang also thinks that football has the strength to unite people. Former Spanish ambassador in China is a good friend of Wang Jianlin. He told Wang that in early 2013, Spain went through the most severe unemployment in several centuries. Unemployment rate was more than 25 percent. Youth unemployment was even more than 55 percent. The economy of the country was very bad. Residents incomes decreased largely. However, the country did not separate, and the reason was partly because of football. The sport united people together. 

He asked Wang Jianlin what would happen to China if the country went through similar difficulties. Wang started to realize that the spiritual support football brings to people should not be measured by income and commercial profits. 

Wang Jianlin commits that football is not a good business right now. He said that if anyone said that investments in football can make profits he would be lying. 

Nonetheless, he said that he needs to put more investments into football at this stage even in the face of losses. Because the industry has been closely connected with policy—football has become the breakthrough point of political and economic reform. 

Wang supports the government’s policy for football reform. He thinks that the reform has grabbed the right point—government needs to be separated from business operation of sports. 

To help with the aim of reforming football, Wanda will learn from good leagues in the world. They have sent over 30 young players to Spain to accept trainings and the every year 30 more will be sent over. This costs seven million to eight million Euros each year, and will cost more in the future. 

The expected result of reform has given Wang great motivations. He is supporting Chinese football through investments. His global sports investments is worth looking forward to. 



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