Chinese Owners Cease Operations Of Football Club
Sunday, 28th Feb 2021 21:40
In a move that will send shockwaves around the Premier League and indeed Europe, Chinese company Suning have announced they are pulling the plug on their footballing operations.
Those Saints fans who give abuse to Saints owner Gao Jisheng have often not understood the complex situation that has lead to his owning of Southampton Football club and indeed the real reason why he hasn't been able to invest money in the club for the past two years or so.
After their success in hosting the Olympics Games in 2008, China adopted a policy of investment in Western sport and football was at the forefront of that, but with China's relations with the West deteriorating after the election of Donald Trump four years ago in 2017, Chinese policy started to change.
Suning have announced that with immediate affect they are "Ceasing Operations"of their football teams to concentrate on their retail business.
Given their team in China is Jiangsu Suning FC who won the Chinese League title only months ago, this will send shockwaves not only through China but the footballing world.
Former England boss Fabio Capello was their manager between 2017 and 2018 and Gareth Bale was close to signing for them from Real Madrid in 2019.
But the Chinese government is apparently scaling down commitment to Chinese football and is reducing sponsorship and TV rights as the costs have been huge and interest remains in the Chinese League has not taken off as they had hoped.
A statement from the club said:
"Even though we are reluctant to part with the players who have won us the highest honours, and fans who have shared solidarity with the club, we have to regretfully make an announcement," Jiangsu FC said in a statement.
"From today, Jiangsu Football Club ceases the operation of its teams.
"In the past six months the club has been looking around to seek a takeover."
Suning chairman Zhang Jindong, speaking earlier in February, said: "We will focus on retail business resolutely and without hesitation will close and cut down our business irrelevant to retail."
So that is it a football team ceases to exist overnight and it might happen here.
We played Jiangsu Suning on our Chinese tour back in July 2019 and of course we are Chinese owned, but luckily enough not by Suning.
But they do own Inter Milan and the Italian giants have been seeking external investment for a number of months without success.
BBC Sport's Simon Stone had this to say:
The Chinese government is apparently scaling down commitment to Chinese football and is reducing sponsorship and TV rights as the costs have been huge and interest remains flaky.
The European situation is evidently different. However, Inter's owners have been looking for external investment, so far without success, as their wage bill is huge.
Suning were also at the centre of the cancelled £564m contract to screen the Premier League in China to 2022, which has had a significant financial impact on England's top-flight clubs.
The uncertainty around Suning will create a general nervousness in Europe, where there are other examples of Chinese investment in European football slowing, West Bromwich Albion an example of that. Even Wolves' owners Fosun, whilst still spending, have pulled back on some massive capital costs around the development of Molineux, which they had wished to expand to a 40,000 capacity.
Inter are a bigger club of course, and as they stand on the brink of their first title since 2010, their fans will hope the assurances around their future prove accurate.
So this will leave Saints feeling a little insecure themselves, social media has been full of Saints supporters criticising Gao's lack of investment lately, but as I have long said, that is not down to Gao himself, but the Chinese Government's change of policy on encouraging it's companies to invest in sport in the west.
I have often said that although Gao has not turned out to be the owner pumping millions into the club we all hoped for, that he has not done anything bad to the club either, he has turned it into a sustainable business albeit one that is now in the middle of the biggest financial crisis in football ever at the moment, but we are in a far better position to survive without his financial input that other clubs.
Jiangsu Suning have closed down because Suning pulled the plug on investment and they couldn't find a new backer, for all the wishful thinking of Saints supporters, there has not been a massive queue outside St Mary's either, at least not of the type of owner we truly want.
Jiangsu Suning's closure is massive in terms of the future of the Chinese Super League, it is like Manchester City's owners suddenly deciding they no longer wanted to bankroll the club and it being unable to pay the high wage bills of it's players closes down.
That is not likely to happen is it ! well let's keep a close eye on what happens at Inter, as I have always maintained, Chinese investment in Western football club has always been due to the encouragement of the Chinese government and unless the relationship between their Government and the West improves, it is hard to see money being allowed to be put into the club's which is a worry to Wolves and West Brom even to us but to a lesser extent.
Photo: Action Images
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