Manchester City’s owners are to set up a franchise in the Chinese Super League as the next step in their global expansion, The Independent can reveal.
City Football Group, the holding company that owns the Premier League club, has been giving advice to Chinese football officials on how to run clubs more efficiently and will follow that up with the launch of the next team in its stable.
The group owns New York City FC in Major League Soccer and Melbourne City in the Australian A-League and has a minority shareholding in the Japanese J-League’s Yokohama F Marinos.
Shanghai City has been mentioned by senior figures at the Etihad as a possible name and home for the new team. Though they are not yet ready to confirm specifics, plans are well under way.
City announced in December that the Chinese consortium CMC had invested £265m in the group, and the consultancy role CFG has played in the country’s game has involved advice on how to grow the Super League in a sustainable fashion, following huge recent investment.
In the past two months, almost a quarter of a billion pounds has been spent on players, including Chelsea’s Ramires, Ezequiel Lavezzi from Paris Saint-Germain and Guangzhou Evergrande’s £31m purchase of Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid.
Manchester City, who have been drawn against PSG in the Champions League quarter-finals, see involvement in China as a way to develop loyalty to the brand as well as opening up “unrivalled commercial opportunities” in football’s biggest emerging market. CFG will then look to franchises in South America and Africa, but have no plans to copy Watford’s Pozzo family and own another club in Europe, because Uefa regulations allow only one club under any single ownership group to enter its continental competitions in a season.