World / Europe

Chinese company is the latest to invest in European soccer

By Cecily Liu in London ( Updated: 2016-03-18 11:18

China's Shanghai Xiaoyuan Culture Communication Co announced a 180,000 pound investment into British soccer company Freestyle Football Ltd on Thursday, the latest significant Chinese football investment in Europe.

The investment follows a wave of Chinese firms buying stakes in western football companies and clubs.

English Premier League club Manchester City sold a 13 percent stake to Chinese consortium consisting of China Media Capital and Citic Capital in December 2015 for 265 million pounds, valuing the club 2 billion pounds.

In Spain, Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, paid $52m for a 20 percent stake in La Liga football club Atletico Madrid in January 2015.

President Xi Jinping's stated ambition is for China to become a footballing 'powerhouse' and create a domestic sports economy worth $850 billion by 2025.

Freestyle Football Ltd is the commercial arm of Freestyle Football Federation, the world governing body for the sport, registered in the UK as a non-profit organization. Shanghai Xiaoyuan Culture Communication has taken a 10 percent stake in the company, and the deal values the business at 1.8 million pounds.

Freestyle Football is a mixture of choreographed routines to music, with a football as the sporting element; players compete head to head in a series of 3-minute knockout battles with judges scoring them on originality, execution and technical difficulty.

Freestyle Football Ltd's chief executive Dan Wood said that Xiaoyuan is a perfect match for his company because of their commitment and enthusiasm for the roles that education and sport play in the lives of young people around the world.

"They have a number of useful resources that will also help us to grow freestyle football across their vast home country of China, which is very exciting for the future of the sport. This investment will enable us to build a sustainable future for freestyle football," Wood said.

Liu Qinying, chairwoman of Shanghai Xiaoyuan Culture Communication, said that football is increasingly seen as popular, the roll-out of football education in schools is very significant, and freestyle football is a great way to help young children become interested in football.

"What Xiaoyuan wants to do is to help Chinese children become friends with football, so they can learn football skills in a natural way, or even become like children in Brazil, who can showcase some football skills no matter where they are, and this will become the future driver of football in China," Liu said.

Shanghai Xiaoyuan Culture Communication owns schools in China, Australia and Cambodia. In January Shanghai Xiaoyuan Culture Communication reached an agreement with the Freestyle Football Federation to introduce an educational program about freestyle soccer to promote the sport in the countries it operates in. In addition, Shanghai Xiaoyuan will organize training sessions for sports teachers in local schools.

Simon Chadwick, a professor in sports enterprise at the University of Salford, said that Shanghai Xiaoyuan needs to work hard to take advantage of the recent football sector development in China, in order to benefit from this investment.

"We know that people like freestyle football, but are perhaps less engaged with it than mainstream football. The onus is therefore on the company to find ways in which freestyle football can rise from the shadow of mainstream football while also aligning itself more closely with it."

As a market, China is investing significantly in the sport of football and related platforms, with the government and leading organizations working in tandem to ignite a thriving industry.

This October, Shanghai will play host to the second stage of the Freestyle Football World Championship Tour 2016. The event will see the top 16 global Freestylers showcasing their skills to a panel of judges, with the aim of gaining the most points ahead of the final event in Melbourne.

In 2014, 154 million people tuned in live to Chinese TV networks to watch the Freestyle Football Beijing World Tour event.

To contact the reporter at

Trudeau visits Sina Weibo
May gets little gasp as EU extends deadline for sufficient progress in Brexit talks
Ethiopian FM urges strengthened Ethiopia-China ties
Yemen's ex-president Saleh, relatives killed by Houthis
Most Popular
Hot Topics