Last week we learned that Dr Tony Xia would be taking manager Roberto Di Matteo and CEO Keith Wyness to China to meet the Chinese media and to hold talks with them about club business. Yesterday, a press conference was held in Beijing and attended by one hundred and fifty Chinese media representatives.
Some fans seemed to question why Di Matteo was swanning off to China when there is transfer business to be done in the United Kingdom. Firstly, the players played on Saturday so they will need a few days’ rest. In addition, Di Matteo has staff capable of overseeing training in his absence. The time he is spending in Asia really isn’t wasted, especially when he can communicate with agents, players and others back in England, and anywhere else, with ease. Part of Di Matteo’s time in China is bound to include speaking to Dr Xia about his transfer plans for the remainder of the summer.
The new owner has talked about his plans to make Aston Villa one of the biggest sides in world football. Big dreams often need big money to fuel them. Although we do not actually know the wealth of our new owner, we know about the growth of the Chinese football industry and how ambitious the Chinese government is when it comes to developing the game further in Asia.
The President of China, Xi Jinping, wants to have a domestic sports industry worth $850 billion (£564 billion) by 2025. Wouldn’t it be great for Aston Villa Football Club to have a slice of that lucrative pie?
The prime example of English success in the Chinese market is Manchester United with its estimated 100 million fans in China. The country offers plenty of marketing opportunities, from selling club merchandise to opening up other revenue streams.
Tony Xia has already spoken about getting Chinese players playing in England; the President of China supports this. He recently drew up a fifty-point plan called “Chinese football reform and development program” to expand football in China. The plan will include the mass building of football facilities. It can only be of benefit to Xia.
The plan, in turn, links to the rise in Chinese football club owners across Europe, with a chunk of Manchester City purchased by the Chinese along with FC Sochaux of France, Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic and Atletico Madrid in Spain. It has been said that clubs are being purchased with money not really an object to a degree – “All the money spent is done for political reasons.”
There is a lot of money in the Premier League and it is clear the Chinese want part of that.
Aston Villa may be late to the party in terms of selling merchandise in China, but even a small share of the market could one day be Villa’s with the correct marketing approach. Dr Tony Xia has already started well with the appointment of the very popular Roberto Di Matteo: Chelsea, like Manchester United, has a large fan base in China and Roberto Di Matteo won the most coveted prize in club football when he lifted the Champions League trophy with the Blues in 2012. Having a Champions League winning manager is a big deal to new fans who may not support a side. Villa could be the next big hit in China.
The world is moving at a faster pace than ever before and there is a big chance for Aston Villa to be a footballing superpower once again.
One hundred and fifty journalists attended the joint Recon and Aston Villa press conference in Beijing yesterday. That will go a long way in starting to get Villa’s name out in China. The names of Roberto Di Matteo and Aston Villa will be plastered across the Chinese media and already garnering attention.
Leicester City has done its marketing properly in Asia. The club’s owners are Thai and have taken a healthy chunk of the Asian market due to clever marketing and having the right contacts in the industry to spread the Leicester City brand.
Whether fans like it or not, Aston Villa is more than a football club. It is a business and it has a huge brand image that has a commanding presence in world football. The strong brand, along with the right marketing, can only lead to Villa’s Chinese fan base booming and the Midlands side reaping the benefits.
It’s an incredibly exciting time at Villa Park. The Chinese market is huge and now that we have a direct link I believe we have the tools to be big in China with its population of 1.4 billion.