Wanda Group strikes FIFA partnership

wang jianlin - infantino - fifa
Wang Jianlin and Gianni Infantino

The Wanda Group has become FIFA’s latest global partner, with the property-developer-conglomerate sponsoring competitions, including four world cups, through 2030. Wanda becomes the first Chinese company to join the top tier of FIFA sponsors, a small group consisting of companies Adidas, Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyundai/KIA and Visa. Previously, Chinese solar panel manufacturer Yingli Solar was a second-tier Fifa sponsor of the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

The Chinese partnership is the first major success for the world soccer governing body which is still recovering from last year’s corruption scandal in which current and former top level officials where named in indictments by the United States. The subsequent fallout eventually led to the unseating of long term FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the election of Gianni Infantino in an effort to steer the organization toward more transparent governance and stem the pressure on existing commercial partners. As the first top tier deal of Infantino’s administration the Wanda partnership suggests the change may have worked and stemmed the uproar over the 2015 scandal.

No financial terms of the deal were disclosed but estimates of partner level fees ranged between $24m and $44m in 2010. If the growth in soccer television rights in the past five years is instructive then it would be reasonable to expect those partner fees to have increased in the time since.

The Wanda Group likely sounds familiar because it’s part of the handful of Chinese companies that have become increasingly active in the soccer media space, with Wanda most recently purchasing a majority stake in sports rights leader Infront Sports & Media. This jump in private activity is no fluke as it is an open secret that the Chinese government sees progress in soccer as a national priority in terms of both international prestige and also commercial opportunity.

Wang Jianlin, Wanda’s Chairman had this to say at the partnership’s announcement:

“The Chinese Government is committed to this development and as a company we strongly support these efforts. In order to professionally grow the existing grassroots movement into a sustainable and well managed sport, we are delighted to tap into the vast experience of the most competent advisor – FIFA. We believe in football as one of the most attractive sports globally and have the highest trust in FIFA and its newly established organisational structure under the lead of President Gianni Infantino.”

Wanda Group strikes FIFA partnership

Chinese billionaire close to Atletico Madrid stake

There are reports floating around that Atletico Madrid is about to take on a new minority owner. Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, the country’s fourth richest man, is reportedly buying a 20% stake in the Colchoneros.

According to Madrid-based sports newspaper AS, Wang is set to purchase a 20 per cent stake in the team for a fee of around €40 million (US$46.4 million) from current owner Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, who is in Beijing with club president Enrique Cerezo to conclude the deal.

Should the investment go forward Wang would be the second high-profile investor from Asia to take a stake in La Liga following Peter Lim’s takeover of Valencia last May. It’s not hard to imagine why Wang chose Atletico; a storied history in Spanish soccer, recent upturn in fortune and Madrid location were surely big selling points.

However it remains to be seen whether the investment is a stepping stone to larger ownership in the club, a strategic partnership supporting his other businesses or merely about financial return.

Chinese billionaire close to Atletico Madrid stake