Often Partisan

Big Money in Little China

February 27 was a momentous day for Carson Yeung. On his 51st Birthday, the team he bought for just over £80million pounds 15 months ago won their first major trophy in nearly fifty years; qualified for European competition for the first time (Birmingham City were only invited in the sixties), and have seemingly wrapped up a meteoric rise from the yo-yo days under the previous regime.

Whilst blues fans are excited at the prospect of meeting the likes of FC Sheriff Tiraspol in July, no doubt Carson was thinking about how his investment will start paying off massively now. However, it’s not just about tv revenue and prize money from a European adventure, it’s about exposure and prestige. A major trophy win is something that is noticed the world around, and was reflected by masses of print in the Chinese media dedicated to the only Chinese-owned team in the Premier League winning in North London. Normally, a premiership weekend will find us in about three or four chinese news articles found on google about the club; today I counted thirty six about us winning the League Cup. Truly, Birmingham City are making their mark on the Chinese market.

For Carson, this is what it’s all about. If he’s to make a good return on his massive investment, he’s got to make Birmingham City a brand name in China. Success in a major trophy final will bring us to more to the forefront of Chinese consciousness – here is a team kitted out in a Chinese-branded strip, owned by a Chinese company, parading silverware. Xtep have already released a press release about how they’re proud to be the sportswear connected to the Blues, and how they feel the partnership will bring about more success.

Another part of Carson’s investment are two parcels of land; one in Liaoning and the other in Chongqing, where he intends to develop property based on British culture and under the brand of “Birmingham”. These plots of land are currently worth around £125million – a fair chunk for a company that in the last set of results (pdf link) turned over around £34mil in six months at an operating loss of £5mil. If this land development is to be of any success then Carson needs the club to be prestigious on the football field – and football in the Europa league is going to go some way to delivering that prestige.

Of course, with the advent of continental football, along with raised expectations on the back of a trophy it’s going to cost him in the short term – in transfer fees for better players, along with increased wages and bonuses. According to the last set of results, wages are currently at a decent level – just 60% of turnover – which means there should be a little bit of room for the club to splash out a bit more on players. In short, this could be the start of a very promising time for Carson and for the Blues; it comes down to how the team is managed financially as well as on the field as to how they deal with it. I hope Carson, from his new office in the Harcourt Tower in Wanchai can continue what is currently the most exciting and successful period in Birmingham City’s history.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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