China leaves Pyeongchang on a high

Here is this week’s China Sports column for SupChina, which was first published here.  

Short track world record gives China long-awaited first – and only – gold in Pyeongchang

China’s saving grace came almost at the last attempt.

Despite pre-Games talk from Chinese officials that medals would be hard to come by and that it was a real possibility China could return from Pyeongchang with no gold medals, the public has become used to feasting on Olympic titles since the 2008 Summer Games. With three won in Sochi four years ago, and some of the more reliable prediction algorithms tipping Chinese athletes to win six events, expectations were high with the long build-up to 2022 increasing interest this time around.

But, event by event, China just didn’t have the golden touch.

FIFA nets yet another Chinese sponsor, while CFA provides much-needed transfer clarity

Here’s a summary of what you can find in my weekly China Digest for SportBusiness:

Scooter company becomes latest Chinese firm to bankroll FIFA

Yadea has become the latest Chinese company to sponsor FIFA, with the electric scooter company becoming a “regional supporter” – the third of three sponsorship tiers – for this year’s World Cup in Russia. Under the terms of the deal, Yadea will see LED advertising exposure during World Cup matches, as well as access to tickets and brand association rights in Asia. FIFA’s chief commercial officer, Philippe Le Floc’h, noted that Yadea’s appeal to a younger audience as well as its emphasis on a sustainable lifestyle were two important elements of the deal, although given that Gazprom is one of the tournament’s main sponsors, it’s likely that the monetary compensation was, as usual, of primary importance.

Yadea is only the second regional supporter of the 2018 World Cup, although with Chinese sports agency Desports tasked with finding more companies across Asia to fill the regional supporter slots, it’s likely that others will soon be added. Yadea is the fifth Chinese company to sign up as a World Cup sponsor, joining Wanda – one of FIFA’s top-tier partners – and Mengniu, Vivo and Hisense – all second-tier World Cup sponsors. Separately, Alibaba’s Cloud division is the title sponsor of the FIFA Club World Cup.

CFA looks to tighten loopholes with transfer policy details

Experience is key for Team China in Pyeongchang

Here is a summary of this week’s China Sports column for SupChina, which was first published here.  

The long-term goal remains 2022, but China still has several medal hopes in Pyeongchang.

The host nation of every Olympic Games – whether Summer or Winter – typically does much better than usual in the medal standings, due to a combination of factors including increased funding and fanatical home support. The host country also tends to gets a bump, albeit a smaller one, in the two Olympics immediately before and after.

With the Olympic Games heading for Beijing in 2022, you might expect China to start raking in the medals in Pyeongchang.

Unfortunately, however, the Chinese don‘t see it quite that way – and they may well be right.

Wigan Athletic takeover, AFC open to offers, China’s Olympic-sized delegation and more

Here’s a summary of what you can find in my weekly China Digest for SportBusiness:

Hong Kong’s IEC in line for Wigan Athletic takeover

[UPDATE] As this column was going to press, news was filtering through that International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), controlled by Hong Kong’s well-known Cheng family, has entered into a two-week period of exclusivity (expiring Feb 14) to agree terms for a 100% takeover of English League One club Wigan Athletic.

Wigan, owned since 1995 by Dave Whelan, are currently looking like a good bet to return to the Championship, lying four points clear of 3rd place with two games in hand in their bid for one of the two automatic promotion spots. The club played in the Premier League for eight seasons from 2005 to 2013, winning the FA Cup just three days before being relegated to the Championship, so the potential is there given their recent history.

So if the proposed @LaticsOfficial takeover by the Cheng family goes through, will @realDonaldTrump will be invited to games?! Cheng Sr did a $90m deal with Trump in the 90s for some Manhattan real estate:

China’s Li Haotong bests Rory to surge up world rankings, as Marbury confirms retirement

Here is a summary of this week’s China Sports column for SupChina, which you can read in full here. 

“Li Who?” goes head-to-head with Rory McIlroy – and beats him

Remember a few years ago when a 14-year-old amateur from China by the name of Guan Tianlang became the youngest golfer in history to make the cut at the Masters – even after a controversial one-stroke penalty for slow play? Headlines promptly declared that China was poised to take over the world of golf.

Well, that hasn’t quite happened — yet.

But take a look at the world’s Top 50 male golfers and you’ll see another Chinese name: Li Haotong, who, at No. 32, has achieved easily the highest-ever ranking for a Chinese golfer, eclipsing Chinese veteran Liang Wenchong‘s best mark of No. 57 from 2010.

CSL TV rights deal resolved, 3×3 takes hold and the NBA’s New Year plans in China

In addition to my SupChina column, I’ve also been filing a weekly China Digest for SportBusiness over the past year. Here’s a summary of what you can find in this week’s version: 

CSL TV rights deal extended for another five years

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the Chinese Super League (CSL) over the past three years – most clearly evidenced by the ups and downs of its main domestic broadcast deal. In the first TV rights auction since the government announced widespread football reforms in March 2015, the relatively little known Tiao Dongli, aka China Sports Media (CSM), stunned the sports industry in September 2015 by paying a massive 8 billion RMB ($1.25 billion) in a five-year deal, far outbidding more established rivals, including CCTV, IMG and Infront.

It marked a staggering 20-fold increase on the previous payout and, despite the money pouring into Chinese soccer following the reform announcement, the industry was universal in declaring this A Bad Deal.

The deal was structured to pay 1 billion RMB in 2016 & 2017 and 2 billion RMB in each of the following three years, but CSM suddenly looked very prescient indeed when, just a few months later, they flipped the first two years to LeSports for 2.7 billion RMB – ostensibly a 35% profit. Even after LeSports’ well-documented struggles saw them fail to pay their bills, rival PPTV picked up the 2017 contract on terms that were thought to be comparable, but, with the market depressed and the yearly fee set to double to 2 billion RMB for the 2018 season, the pressure was building on CSM to make a profit on the rest of the contract.

Bending – and breaking – the rules in Chinese football

Here is today’s China Sports column for SupChina, which you can read in full here. Below is a summary of what went on this week. 

Circumventing the rules

A newly-arrived foreigner in China could be forgiven for thinking there are a lot of rules. But the trick to being successful, he or she might soon learn, isn’t learning to follow the rules, but mastering the act of working around them

There are countless examples: couples in Shanghai divorcing in order to take advantage of a property policy that benefits singletons, parents demanding that students be allowed to bring transmitting devices to school in order to cheat on exams, local officials inflating economic data to win promotions, and so on.

But nowhere is rule-bending more prevalent in Chinese society than in soccer.

Carlos the Jackass, CFA on trial and the search for the new Li Na goes on

Here is today’s China Sports column for SupChina, which you can read in full here. Below is a summary of what went on this week. 

Tevez can’t keep his mouth shut, enrages Chinese fans

To be clear, Shanghai Shenhua got badly burned by the failed Carlos Tevez experiment. Don’t believe any of the numbers you’ve heard or seen about what he was being paid to play in China, because the truth is that only Tevez and the club know exactly how much money changed hands.

Whatever the amount, though, he was undoubtedly rewarded very, very handsomely for what was, at best, a very, very underwhelming performance on the pitch and, at worst, a show of willful disrespect to both the club and its fans, such as this spell in a game where he stood practically motionless in the middle of the pitch while play continued around him.

So when Tevez returned to Boca Juniors in his hometown of Buenos Aires with a large pile of cash, you might think he would take the opportunity to appease those fans he had let down in Shanghai.

Doping, diplomacy and deadbeat players

Fresh off making their 2017 China Sources list, this is my debut China Sports column for SupChina, which you can read in full here. Below is a summary of what went on this week. 

First up, doping…

China says it’s been ramping up its anti-doping efforts over the past few months in the run-up to the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, which kick off on February 9. But of the 17,000+ tests that the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) carried out last year, the agency uncovered 77 doping violations from among 132 positive tests — both figures way up from 2016. Some punishments from the past month:

Speed skater Li Yanzhe, steroids, four year ban

Marathoner Wang Jiali, EPO, eight year ban

Where next for China’s failed football experiment?

Earlier this year, China and Germany established a high-level football partnership, at the center of which China’s U20 national team was to play a series of games against teams in Germany’s south-west. But a Tibetan protest at the very first game has left the entire cooperation in tatters – and could have ramifications for China’s wider sporting ambitions. 

Last month, six people displaying a grand total of four flags staged a protest at a football match in Germany that was attended by about 400 people. On the surface, it was hardly an earth-shattering event. But anything involving the “Tibet issue” is magnified exponentially in China and the dust from that day is still settling.

Firstly, here’s the background…

Since March 2015, China has been seeking to reform its soccer industry from top to bottom, all with the aim of improving the rankings of its men’s and women’s national teams. As a result, China had reached out to just about every major footballing nation, with FAs around the world licking their lips at the thought of becoming China’s premier partner.

However, given Germany’s outstanding record in international competition – a top-three finish in each of its last seven European Championships and World Cups – it should come as no surprise that Germany came out on top in this unofficial bidding process.