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Will Alibaba discover treasure at Guangzhou Evergrande?

Mr Samandeep Chouhan

Posted: August 7, 2014

Football in China – your reaction? Probably the same as mine before I started taking an interest. Well let’s start with a few recognisable names who have plied their trade in the vast entity which is Chinese Football. Marcello Lippi. The Italian, who has a few recognisable medals sitting in his trophy cabinet, was installed as the manager of last year’s Asian Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande FC in 2012. Both, English Premier League superstars Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka had stints in China, but their stay was cut short due to personal problems. As for Conca, well let’s just say he came with the weight of Chinese football bearing on his shoulders. Guangzhou Evergrande FC invested heavily in the Argentinian with speculation mounting his wages were higher than the two “freaks of football”, Ronaldo and Messi. His stay was like the two abovementioned. Short and sharp.

Now you’re probably thinking so what? Chinese football will promote the idea of having a footballing life cycle, where every so often they will bring in ‘big’ players who will play there for a year or so and then leave. But things aren’t as simple as that.

Corporate world taking over Chinese football

Becoming one of China’s leading residential real estate property developers is no mean feat. Guangzhou Evergrande Real Estate Group’s investments in multi-million pound projects across mainland China have caught the eye of the worldwide media. None more so then their takeover of Guangzhou FC (in 2010), which was immediately renamed Guangzhou Evergrande FC. As their growing interest in promoting healthy living amplified, a totally different industry into which they operate within, the group paved a way with their investment in “high-end mineral water” cleverly named ‘Evergrande Spring’ which was launched in 2013. A ploy they envisioned years ago? Only the people sitting at the top of the tree can tell us.

Before their respective takeover, the club was enrolled in corruption controversies and were relegated to China’s B league. It’s safe to say the club has had a few owners who wanted short term success since its existence. However, to this day Evergrande have broken the sequence.

The appeal of football for the Chinese faithful

Yet, Evergrande Real Estate Group have left no stone unturned. The easily identifiable Evergrande brand has teamed up with ecommerce experts, Alibaba to produce a “first-class football team”. Unknown in the corporate world, the deal was seemingly splashed out after a few drinks. The industry experts bought half of Chinese football club for an estimated $192 million. Both partners promise to bring in 20 more shareholders worth £200 million each, illustrating a prominent task in increasing the clubs profile.

In addition to their investment in football, Alibaba recently announced deals in finance, online drug data services and entertainment. On top of their ownership of Taobao.com (platform where businesses can advertise), TMall.com (Online storefront for brand-name companies) and Alipay.com (Controls almost half of China’s online payment market). They seem to want to dip their fingers in every industry, mirroring Evergrandes’ vision.

Only time will tell whether or not Chinese football will compete with its overseas counterparts. But from recent findings, Guangzhou Evergrande FC is doing as much for its owners as it is doing for Chinese football. Forgetting to mention their recent partnership acquisition with Real Madrid FC. But we’ll leave that for another day.

 

 

 

 

About Samandeep Chouhan

Samandeep Chouhan is a recent Sport Management graduate at Coventry University who is seeking employment in the world of sport. He hasworked in the ticketing and sales department for Coventry City Football Club, organised and coached sporting events and written for sporting blogs from the age of 16. Samandeep’s email address – chouhan3@uni.coventry.ac.uk.