By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
China’s richest man, billionaire Wang Jianlin of the conglomerate Dalian Wanda, is planning a new Competition in Europe to rival the UEFA Champions League!
In recent times, the Chinese have been targeting football, the world’s most favourite and lucrative sport. For example, the sale to a Chinese Consortium of Investors, at a price of €400 million for an 80% stake in the legendary Italian soccer club, AC Milan, which was founded in 1899 and has been owned for the last thirty years by the former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was reportedly completed on 5 July, 2016!
Under the Wanda proposal, a single expanded competition is envisaged, featuring between 32 and 64 teams, and guaranteeing at least six places for each of the English, French, German, Italian and Spanish ‘Premier’ Leagues – the top five European Leagues!
A Wanda- backed tournament would signal its latest move into the football market, at a time when it is making a major drive in the sporting sector as a whole. In March of this year, the conglomerate became the first Chinese Firm to secure a top-tier commercial partnership with FIFA. Also, it already has a twenty per cent stake in Atletico Madrid, which it acquired in January of last year.
Wanda has stated that it wishes to have the backing of UEFA for its plan, but is prepared to proceed without it. It has also been reported that the restructuring of the Champions League is high on the agenda of UEFA, which, with the suspension of Platini and the departure of Infantino to FIFA as its new President, has created something of a power vacuum at European Football’s Governing Body.
In line with the Chinese saying, we are certainly living in interesting times!
So, watch this space!
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw is an International Sports Lawyer, Academic, Author and Member of CAS. He may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’