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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly - 8th December

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: Inter Miami CF announces Hong Kong tour, more cities implement compulsory PE classes, China lands F1 sprint race, Arsenal partners with ZC Rubber, Ningbo to host 2026 World Weightlifting Championships, China to host V WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup in 2024, and Blizzard eyes China return, 🎤 In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Kevin Sim, Head of APAC, Bundesliga International about the organisation’s recent partnership with the Chinese Football Association, the Bundesliga Dream, benefits of being active in China for decades, and plans to engage fans and sponsors in the future.


🗞️ Top Industry News Inter Miami CF Announces Hong Kong Pre-season Tour The MLS side announced that it will travel to Asia this upcoming February for the club’s first-ever international tour. The team will play a match in Hong Kong, taking on the Hong Kong Team, as part of the tour. Read more on Tatler Asia (English) and Sohu (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: A huge win for Hong Kong, a city that has struggled to host international sporting events in recent years due to the global pandemic. With Hong Kong often seen as the Gateway to Asia, Messi’s presence will bring the eyes of the world back to the region as part of an exciting week, partnering with the iconic Tatler Asia.


Chinese Cities Set Minimum Times for Physical Activity in Schools Shenzhen has become the latest city to introduce guidelines for minimum levels of physical activity in schools following concerns over students’ physical and mental health. Starting Jan. 1, 2024, all schools in Shenzhen providing first to ninth-grade education will be required to provide one PE class every school day, while high schools will be required to offer three classes each week. Read more on Sixth Tone (English) and Shanghai Observer (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: A boost for the sporting future of China as students at varying ages will be exposed more frequently to physical education. This presents a good opportunity for global sporting organisations and federations to partner with Chinese education bureaus to help implement best-in-class tutorials and structure, such as the NHL has done with its renowned ball hockey program. China Joins Sprint Race Roster for F1 in 2024 A notable absentee from the F1 calendar in recent years, the Chinese Grand Prix is back for the upcoming season, and it’s coming back with a sprint race. Baku and Spa will revert to a normal grand prix timetable this year, while the Chinese Grand Prix on 21 April in Shanghai and the Miami GP on 5 May will replace them in hosting their first sprint events. Read more on Motorsport (English) and (Chinese) Arsenal Partners with ZC Rubber The Premier League club has announced a new global partnership with ZC Tyres in a deal that will see the Chinese tyre manufacturer join the club’s extensive partnership roster as its Official Global Tyre Partner. The tyre manufacturer in China and one of the top 10 tyre manufacturers globally. Read more on Inside World Football (English) and Sohu (Chinese) Another Huge Stride for Chinese Running China's thriving marathon scene celebrated another milestone after Yang Shaohui clocked a men's national record of 2:07:09 in a runner-up finish in Fukuoka, Japan. Read more on China Daily (English) and Guangming Net (Chinese) Ningbo to Host 2026 World Weightlifting Championships The eastern Chinese city will host the 2026 World Weightlifting championships, following the 2024 edition in Manama (Bahrain) and the 2025 edition in Forde (Norway). The venue of the championships will be the Ningbo Olympic Sports Center, which was built in 2019 with a 10,000-seat capacity. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) China to Host V WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup in 2024 The Shaoxing Baseball & Softball Sports Culture Center, the venue of baseball and softball at the 19th Asian Games, will host a WBSC baseball event in mainland China for the first time. Eight teams have qualified so far with hosts China receiving a wild card. The V WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup will run from 6 to 15 September, 2024. Read more on WBSC (English) and Weibo (Chinese) Li-Ning Teams Up with LA Artist Steven Harrington Three years after their first collaboration, the Chinese sportswear brand and LA-based artist Steven Harrington have collaborated one last time with Li-Ning’s FW23 collection. The collection, called “Old Block New Hood”, includes sneakers, apparel, and accessories such as rucksacks and beanie hats. Read more on DAO (English) and Sohu (Chinese)


🎮 Esports One Year After Exit, Blizzard Games Eyes Return to China: Reports Almost one year after Blizzard Games suspended services and shut down operations in China, domestic media reports suggest that the American gaming giant is contemplating a return. Blizzard Entertainment is reportedly in discussions with multiple tech companies including NetEase and Tencent about reentering the Chinese market. Read more on Sixth Tone (English) and The Paper (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion Can Anta Sports transform Maia Active into China’s Lululemon? Anta stated that the acquisition of Maia Active was aimed at enhancing its lineup of brands, which includes the likes of Fila (in China), Descente, Kolon Sport, as well as other brands under subsidiary company Amer Group. The acquisition is believed to be driven by Maia Active’s potential to become the Chinese version of Lululemon. Read more on Kr Asia (English)


🎤 From The Top 📢 Kevin Sim, Head of APAC, Bundesliga International. 1. How did the Bundesliga’s partnership with the CFA happen and what can we expect to see from it? The CFA and Bundesliga have a longstanding relationship and the discussions for Bundesliga Dream were one of the aspects of cooperation that both parties saw strong interest and value to strengthen football development on a long-term basis to give young, talented football players a chance to get early exposure to European football development programmes to accelerate their development. Emerging from COVID, the Bundesliga Dream China initiative is just a kick-off point and there have already been discussions together with our clubs on how we can play a role in other efforts in China. 2. Can you talk more about the Bundesliga Dream, what does it entail, what benefits will Chinese football gain from it? The Bundesliga Dream is a player development programme in collaboration with national federations, leagues and sporting bodies around the world for young, talented footballers to come to Germany to be a part of a rare immersion into Germany’s world class football setup, get high level match experience against Bundesliga and Bundesliga youth teams, and hopefully provide a long-term pathway for Asian footballers to play in the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is the home of Asian players: in the last 20 years, we have had more Asian players in Germany than the other top European leagues combined. After launching this project in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Korea, we are excited to continue working with our partners throughout Asia; both to support the development of football in those countries, and to further the opportunities for Asian players to experience Bundesliga football. For China in particular, the project will start in February, when a cohort of the top young Chinese players from the U16 national team will come to Germany to train and play against the youth academies of several Bundesliga/Bundesliga 2 clubs. This is a golden opportunity for the players to train against elite opponents and utilise the world class training facilities of the reigning UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup U17 winners, under the watchful eyes of coaches that have developed world class talents such as like Florian Wirtz, Jude Bellingham, and Alphonso Davies. The curriculum will be jointly curated and defined by coaches from the CFA and the Bundesliga, working on a number of different areas that will best benefit the young players. The Bundesliga Dream China will be one of the key ongoing projects that we hope will establish a long-term pathway for young players in China. We are convinced that there is talent and want to help play a role to nurture and develop these players so that they reach their potential. Taking a broader perspective, realistically not all players will turn professional, but the aim is to also offer a fantastic life experience that can help mould them into better leaders in the community. Finally, this is another great opportunity to share German football culture with China, and aligns to our mission and mantra “Football As Its Meant To Be”. We are excited to be once again investing in the leaders of tomorrow through football. 3. The Bundesliga and its clubs have been on the ground in China for many years now and have a 30-year relationship with the country. What have been the standout successes for the Bundesliga during this time? The Bundesliga has benefited from a strong heritage in China as one of the first football leagues to be broadcasted on CCTV across the country. It helped to inspire a number of players to join the Bundesliga, such as legends Yang Chen – the first Chinese player to play in the Bundesliga, and Shao Jiayi who made 168 appearances and is regarded as the most successful Chinese player in German football to date, having played 168 times in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2. In 2019, the Bundesliga sent a clear message by establishing a permanent office in China and, coupled with no less than five clubs also based here, underlines our commitment to ensuring the connection continues strongly for the future. Today, the Bundesliga has the highest media presence in China – when it comes to broadcasting channels/platforms, and digital channels. We are very proud of this relationship that the Bundesliga has with China, and look forward to strengthening it through our joint efforts. 4. How does the Bundesliga operate in the rest of Asia compared to China, and what other initiatives like the Bundesliga Dream is the league doing across the continent? With so many Asian players coming to the Bundesliga, it is no surprise that the Bundesliga is the fastest-growing league across the region when it comes to fan interest. This is particularly clear in APAC and in MENA, and our recently announced broadcast deals with beIN Sports (pan-Asia) and latterly with Coupang Play (Korea) add further weight to this position. However, we recognise that Asia is not a homogenous region and the Bundesliga has taken a market-by-market approach across all countries we operate, not just in China. Initiatives are based on a number of considerations, including football interest, demographics, media consumption habits, cultural and business norms and differences. China is unique and distinct to other countries in APAC hence given the size, complexity and sheer speed where decisions are made in the Chinese market, we have a dedicated local team to cater to the market requirements. The Bundesliga Dream is an umbrella project that is equally relevant to China and the rest of Asia as the Bundesliga has been the home to Asian players, but while interest in football remains exceptionally high – 79% of Vietnamese and 77% of Indonesians indicate interest in football - they remain chronically underrepresented in European football. The Bundesliga Dream project aims to address this by creating a pathway for Asian players and holistically strengthening the football ecosystem with national stakeholders. In total, we are responsible for more than 600 marketing activities worldwide, including a range of projects throughout Asia. From grassroots initiatives, such as Bundesliga Common Ground in Indonesia, to high-level strategic cooperations with national and regional football associations, our strategy in Asia is centred on supporting the development of football at all levels. 5. Heading into 2024, what does the Bundesliga have planned in China to further engage fans & sponsors? We just celebrated the Bundesliga’s 60th anniversary with our partners and friends in China, and with more Bundesliga clubs present in China than any other league, we are now embarking on the journey for the next 60 years. On that note, we recently successfully renewed our media rights cycle and are now looking to build on our partnerships with them alongside CMG/CCTV as well as other football, media and other stakeholders, to create as much value for and with our clubs. We recently signed a content partnership with BiliBili that saw us launch a channel on the platform from the start of the 2023/2024 season. Since then, we are already the fastest-growing football league on the platform, which highlights the desire for Bundesliga content in China. The Bundesliga Dream China will be a key, multifaceted initiative to not only strengthen Chinese football ecosystem, but also serve as a basis of storytelling and educating Chinese fans on Germany’s unique football culture through entertaining and engaging content of the U16 journey to various Bundesliga clubs. We are not standing still – we have a range of exciting China-focused projects that are set to be unveiled in the near future.


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