The Exodus of Chinese Money from European Soccer

    • Just a few years ago, Chinese investors had majority stakes in over 20 European soccer teams.
    • Now those investors are selling off their stakes; Americans are partially filling the gap.

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A sea change in European soccer is underway, with money flowing out from the East and in from the West.

From 2015 to 2018, likely following cues from Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese investors bought majority stakes in Southampton, West Bromwich Albion, Inter Milan, Parma, and nine other clubs. Chinese investors also took minority stakes in teams like Manchester City and Lyon, and got involved in broadcasting and stadium deals.

Now, having barely broken in their owner’s chairs, many of those investors are reversing course.

  • There are currently fewer than 10 European soccer teams with Chinese investors; in mid-2017, there were over 20. 
  • The owners of Southampton and West Bromwich Albion, both Chinese billionaires, are reportedly looking to sell some or all of their stakes, as is Nanjing-based Suning Holdings Group, which owns Inter Milan.
  • In September, the English Premier League canceled its broadcasting contract with PPTV, a subsidiary of Suning Holdings, just one year into a three-year, $700 million deal.

American investors are partly filling the void, having purchased Parma, Roma, ACF Fiorentina, Toulouse FC, and Burnley.

China is still pouring money into soccer, just within its own borders. Construction has started on a $1.7 billion, lotus-shaped soccer stadium in the Guangzhou province, and the country is believed to have ambitions to host the 2030 World Cup.