Tuesday, December 13, 2005

English Championship club acquires Chinese club

English Championship club Sheffield United yesterday signed an agreement with the Chengdu Football Association to take a majority stake in China League club Chengdu Wuniu based in western China. According to Sinosoc, the deal was brokered by Xu Hongtao, "the agent who handled Hai Haidong's famous one-pound transfer to Sheffield United earlier this year".

Chengdu Wuniu were taken over by the Chengdu FA this season after previous owners Chengdu Tobacco company quit the football business at the start of the 2005 China League season.

More details emerged at Sheffield United’s Annual General Meeting reported by Soccer Investor (13 December). The Championship club’s executive chairman Kevin McCabe told around 300 shareholders that the planned acquisition of the "Chengdu Five Bull Football Club" (CW FC) in China was expected to be completed in the New Year.

"Our transformation into a full football, property and leisure services business continues apace and I am particularly excited to announce this morning that we are taking the Blades global with the acquisition of the [CW FC] in China. Contracts have been exchanged at a price, which is not material to the Group and, subject to a number of conditions, we expect to complete the acquisition in the New Year… Bringing [CW FC] into the Sheffield United fold presents enormous opportunities for the Group and follows our first team’s successful pre-season tour of the Far East in the summer which began the process of establishing the Blades brand in the region,” he said.

CW FC was established in 1996 and enjoys strong local support, with this season’s opening match drawing 18,000 supporters and the club’s attendance record is 30,000. Currently the CW FC has no official supporters club and sells no merchandise. CW FC has 30 registered players and six coaching staff, including Li Bing, a former national team player seen as one of China’s best ever forwards, winning player of the year award several times," Soccer Investor reported.

Chengdu city has a population of 11.3 million and is the capital of the Sichuan province with a population of around 100 million. “Although I do not expect them all to become fans, this does present us with a huge potential fan base with which we can develop both the Chengdu Five Bull and Sheffield United brands,” McCabe added.

“As one of the main clubs in its province Chengdu has a 40,000 seat stadium as well as excellent training facilities. From a business point of view, there are numerous ways in which we can enhance Chengdu’s performance and our initial focus will be on improving sponsorship and increasing attendance. We intend to establish a leisure/ football shop in the stadium as a well as a Blades bar in the city itself.

"In addition, we intend to sell Chengdu Five Bull branded merchandise for the first time, encouraging the growth of the fan base and creating a new revenue stream. There are numerous other potential initiatives which will be announced in due course,” he said.

See also: Sheffield United expected to purchase China club (6 Dec)

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