Stockport profit from China link

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The Independent Football

Stockport County have signed a partnership agreement with the Chinese club Liaoning Tiger Star, giving the Second Division club a 50 per cent share in their Asian counterparts.

The ground-breaking alliance, completed on Thursday, is the latest development in Stockport's unexpected link with Liaoning, a province of 42 million people.

While the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid have concentrated their marketing efforts on Beijing and Shanghai, Stockport have spent the last three years quietly building regional links that now produce 30 per cent of the club's income.

The club said the latest deal will involve Stockport sending a coach to work with the club, who are likely to change their name to Stockport Tiger Star, to help with their bid to reach the Chinese First Division. Stockport will tour the region next May and play a friendly against their new partners, while Tiger Star players will spend a week training in England.

Stockport, however, will be fighting for a Chinese fan base with their two premier league neighbours, Manchester United and Manchester City. United are reported to be close to signing the 18-year-old striking sensation Dong Fangzhou from Dalian, while City already boast the first Chinese international in the premier league, the defender Sun Jihai. Also the China midfielder Li Tie plays at Everton.

David Moyes, Everton's manager, yesterday ruled out a move for Nicky Butt. The Manchester United midfielder has admitted he may have to move away from Old Trafford to gain regular first-team football, but Moyes said Everton could not afford him.

"If you are linking me with him, that is very nice," Moyes said. "He is a good player and would be happy to have him. But this is the first I have heard about it, I know nothing about it. We are not thinking about new players, it is well documented that we do not have the finances to bring any players in. That is a fact."