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China’s Lander expects ‘huge’ sports investments to resume

Zhuhai (China) (AFP) – China’s Lander Sports, whose boss bought a stake in English club Southampton last year, believes Beijing’s curbs on overseas sporting acquisitions are temporary and that “huge” outbound investments will resume, an executive said Tuesday.

The listed Chinese builder of stadiums and other athletic complexes also plans to develop 10 “sports towns” in China over the next three years to capitalise on surging growth in the country’s huge sports and leisure market, executive vice president Neil Chen told AFP.

After a wave of overseas Chinese acquisitions of sports properties in recent years, Beijing last year launched a tough crackdown due to fears of capital flight, currency instability and “irrational” investments.

But Chen said Lander believes the government, which sometimes see-saws between different policies, will ease up.

“This is definitely a temporary thing,” Chen said on the sidelines of Soccerex China, a football-business convention in the southern city of Zhuhai.

“I think the government will have more logical policies for the (Chinese football) league and industry.” 

“In the next three years there should be some huge investments overseas,” he said.

Chen said Lander believes the Chinese government’s crackdown — which has also targeted a range of other investment assets — will be lifted once authorities are confident the investment picture has stabilised.

He adds that the government may already realise that it cannot achieve its goal of developing Chinese football without outside expertise.

Chinese authorities are seeking to curb big spending on overseas assets or football transfers so that funds can instead be invested in developing China’s football abilities.

“You have to get the experience overseas, but you can’t fully get it if you don’t invest (overseas),” Chen said.

Without that cross-pollination, “the domestic sports industry will not develop”.

Lander last year announced plans to build a four billion yuan ($640 million) “sports town” in the southwestern province of Sichuan focused on sports, leisure and entertainment activities.

Chen said Lander now has plans for 10 more such developments across the country, some of which are already under construction.

Lander also will look to raise Southampton’s profile in China, starting with a tour of the country in July in which the club will play one Chinese Super League team and a Bundesliga side, according to initial plans.

Lander also intends to build between five and ten youth football schools in China within the next two years, which will be set up using Southampton expertise.

Lander’s founder and chairman Gao Jisheng last year bought a stake in Southampton, which British press reports said cost £200 million ($287 million), giving him 80 percent ownership.

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