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Allez Auxerre! The way to goal

Updated: 2013-11-04 08:10
By Li Xiang in Paris ( China Daily)

French soccer club seeks Chinese investors to help field triumphs

Allez Auxerre! The way to goal

AJ Auxerre's chairman Guy Cotret (second from left) with retired Chinese soccer player Fan Zhiyi (second from right) when he was invited to visit several clubs in France. [Li Xiang / China Daily]

It has been 17 years since AJ Auxerre topped the French soccer league. Now languishing mid-table in Ligue 2, the Burgundy side is looking to Chinese investors to help them climb back to glory days and top form.

In return, the club that gave Eric Cantona his professional debut - and has honed the skills of Laurent Blanc, Basile Boli, Djibril Cisse and Bruno Martini among others - is offering to help improve soccer in China through establishing a specialized academy there and bring talented players to Europe.

Foreign capital has significantly changed the landscape of European football in recent years. Although the French league is much less popular in China compared with the English, Spanish, German and Italian ones, it has also been attracting more interest from Chinese sponsors.

Shanghai Sanei Elevator Co Ltd recently signed a new three-year sponsorship deal, worth about 1 million euros ($.37 million) a year with Ligue 1 club Stade de Reims.

Other French soccer clubs are now looking to score with Chinese investors in the hope of improving their financial situation and reviving the international appeal of the French game.

"We are eager to meet partners of Chinese soccer and companies interested in the exposure of the French market," says AJ Auxerre's chairman, Guy Cotret. "Bringing a Chinese player to the club's development will be part of the success.

"Long-term partnership may also open the door for equity partners to join in and create further business opportunities."

Like many clubs in France exposed to the economic downturn, Auxerre has been struggling to attract supporters to matches and viewers on TV. Its financial performance declined along with its on-field one. Two years ago it was relegated to Ligue 2.

The club is now in dire need of fresh capital to improve across the board, mainly by buying quality players.

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