John Yan: No Saints or sin as Wang joins CFA elite 王健林:”顾问”怎问南安普顿?

Just in the middle of the noise of Wang Jianlin’s potential purchase of Southampton FC, another piece of news related to The richest man in China and CFA (China Football Association) came out.

On January 21, 2014, the National Congress of CFA was finally held in a small town outside of Beijing. A new generation of leaders of CFA was elected by raised hands, and Wang Jianlin was appointed as the Adviser of CFA.

The National Congress of CFA is something of huge importance, as the last National Congress of CFA was held 11 years ago. In the between years, there were no personnel transitions nor any exact planning for the next congress. The President of the CFA, for the past 11 years, has been Yuan Weimin, the former head of China’s National Sport Administration (NSA), whose political career ended in 2005.

Thanks to the National Congress of CFA finally being held, Cai Zhenhua, was elected to be the next President, with all representatives in the conference raising their hands as votes. Cai, who used to be world champion table tennis player and coach, has actually been supervising football in China for the past three years, as he is the deputy director of NSA, and football is in his power domain. He is also famous for wearing a Guangzhou Evergrande team shirt during one of last season’s Asian Champions League match, which I described in one of my past columns.

On the shortened list of leaders of the CFA, Wang Jianlin, the owner of Wanda Group, was named as the Adviser. Nobody really knows much about this title, though it sounds similar to an honorary post. However, Wang donated about £50 million (500 million RMB) for the past three years in a project called ‘Total Support of China Football’, he deserves the recognition of the new administration of CFA.

And that is the last evidence I needed to flush the news of Wang purchasing Southampton FC from the Swiss family of Liebherr into dustbin: in order to own an EPL club and keep it running well for 3 or 5 seasons, the £175 million The Mail declared, was only half of the cost, the maintenance and management of the club for the following seasons would be around another £100 million at least. That makes the overall investment close to £300 million, which equals 3 billion RMB. How much did Mr. Wang pay in his ‘Total Support of China Football’ project?

This is an area that western people would never understand in China: the murky water of politics, business and public fame mingled together. To be politically correct in China, when you are as rich as a man like Wang Jianlin, your personal assets do not only belong to yourself. Studying the cases of the doomed fates of most of the oligarchs of the Yeltsin era might give you some tips of understanding, but China is far more complicated than Russia.

Wang Jianlin started about 20 years ago, as a low level public servant of a small state-owned real estate company, Wan Da, in the northeastern coastal city of Dalian. He made this company a huge success, and privatised the company to make himself the richest man in China. Through investment in the great success story of Dalian Football Club in the nineties, Wang became a national household name. He quit the club to focus on his Wan Da cause since 2000, but he knew how important football can be as a political tool to strengthen his relationship with the Party and the government.

He has invested heavily in real estate and other property in the UK in recent years, but the last thing Wang wants to hear is that leaders in his homeland are not happy about his way of transferring his riches to the western world. At the same time, investing globally is a trend the government has been encouraging for years, therefore, Wang must walk a safe line of investing in the west but not taking any political risks.

To purchase Southampton FC at the up-mentioned price, would not be a big challenge for Wang, even investing more like Roman Abramovic to make Southampton a European Champions League contender, would not be beyond his power. But as the Adviser to CFA, he needs to keep the balance, always walk in the middle of the road.

How much more will he invest into China°s football? The owner of Guangzhou Evergrande, Xu Jiahin, has always been a kind of competitor in the real estate business as well as in the football sense. Wang has been the frontrunner for a long time, he might take up a Chinese Super League Club and making it big in Asia, that is a more realistic football related investment, than the strange Southampton story, which was manufactured by the ever-thirsty English media.

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com. Contact him at moc.l1537571049iamg@15375710498002g1537571049naiqn1537571049ay1537571049, or on weibo at: http://weibo.com/1646270104/profile?topnav=1&wvr=5

王健林:”顾问”怎问南安普顿?

停摆了超过十年的中国足协会员大会,终于在2014年初低调召开。可以说低调至极——会议地点都离开了北京的河北香河,在那里的中国足协基地里,换届选举完成,中国足球的中长期规划也将制定发布。

这是一个时间结点,是否会成为历史性的时刻,只能让未来回答。不过中国足球有理由感觉自己”翻篇”了,足协主席不再是袁伟民,”足协副主席”这样的头衔,也不再会是可以随手授予的散官。至少从初期低调但仍然引起各界关注的消息发布看,务实应该是这次会议的追求。

不过所有的官方头衔里,仍然有”顾问”的存在:年维泗和王健林。已过八旬的年维泗,作为前任主席,中国足球少有的年高德劭长者。王健林成为”顾问”,自然和万达过去几年对中国足球的”全面支持计划”有关。

“顾问”到底”顾”何而”问”,对于这个头衔还没看到具体说明,但这至少是对两位特殊人士身份和地位的尊崇认可。这条新闻的出现,也让此前传得沸沸扬扬、关于王健林要收购英超南安普顿俱乐部的传言,变得更加难以让人相信。

超过一周时间,南安普顿成为”红色资本家”资产的消息,经历了又一段出口转内销的过程:从英国出口到中国,在中国激起颇多”朋友圈”鼓噪后,又迅速回流欧洲。在社交媒体无意识推动下,传言成份里,数字和推导的理性论据越来越充实,收购价格为1.75亿英镑、王老板要和阿布、阿布扎比们扳手腕的说法越来越多。对于每天都需要各种耸人听闻的英国媒体来说,这是非常性感的一条新闻,具备各种exotic元素:半神秘的中国、中国的首富、足球这第一运动、王健林和各种中资在欧洲尤其英国的投资;对于中国媒体来说,这更是一条值得长久跟踪的新闻:中国力量的展现、中国梦在足球尤其国际足球领域的升腾、王健林的野望、近期不断被广州恒大战绩催情的足球产业……

当国际足联都有人在私下询问这传言时,戏剧性效果越来越强。整体而言,中国媒体和球迷,只不过是看热闹,国际友人和媒体,在并不了解中国经济和足球前提下,更倾向于相信这传言的真实性:中国首富买个英超俱乐部,财力上毫无问题;王健林和万达品牌的升级转移,十余年前就得益于足球;万达近年对中国足球之”全面支持”;中央领导了解足球,也会垂询王健林。

然而这条传言,混淆的是生意投资、足球经营和商业政治的界线。西方社会里,这几块区域界线基本清晰,中国却是水至清则无鱼,而混沌之中又会有几条或隐或显的界线。王健林如果此时真去买南安普顿,那才是政治正确(Political Correctness)的错误。

收购南安普顿,1.75亿英镑估价相当准确。控股这个南英格兰俱乐部的是瑞士利勃海尔(Liebherr)家族、有着德国和瑞士背景的顶级建筑机械集团。改革开放初期,利勃海尔和中国有过合作,青岛的海尔集团品牌得名,就跟那段”琴岛——利勃海尔”的合作有关。

马库斯·利勃海尔在2009年花了1300万英镑收购处在第三季联赛的”圣徒”,如今已经让俱乐部拥有了英超地位稳定的中游排名。只是当初收购俱乐部的马库斯·利勃海尔已经去世,女儿卡塔琳娜·利勃海尔作为所有者,只是在继承父志,转让俱乐部的可能性很大。

只是对于潜在的收购者而言,1.75亿英镑并不是实现”英超老板”梦想的成本主体,收购价格之外,不做好未来3到5年的运营预算,这样的中游俱乐部极有可能降级,降级之后,会是市值极大的缩水。过去几年降级的英超俱乐部布莱克本、博尔顿、朴茨茅斯都是血淋淋的例子。因此收购花费1.75亿英镑,运营3年的预算,也会在1亿英镑以上。即便英超俱乐部有着令全世界艳羡的商业收入。

所以收购南安普顿,王老板或者任何其他收购者,预算成本不是1.75亿英镑,而应该接近3亿英镑——差不多20亿到30亿人民币。而万达”全面支持中国足球计划”的数目,为5亿人民币。

生意做到中国首富的水准,王健林做的早已不是生意,更是商业政治。哪怕他富可敌国,慈善捐赠一次性可超10亿人民币,但那些在王老板名下的财产,绝不会简单得都能划归为王老板个人私产。他在伦敦酒店地产方面的巨额投入,有着严谨的商业计划,符合中资海外扩张的潮流。可是投资一个英超俱乐部,短期内很难看到商业收益,中国足球又处在还需要继续努力的惨境,中国足协的”顾问”,怎能顾左右而言南安普顿?

传言博人一笑,这是英国小报风格。十年前尹明善去一趟伦敦,BBC都会起哄说”红色资本家”来收购英超俱乐部了;十年前我陪前河南建业总经理去西汉姆联,和乔·科尔聊天时,时任主教练的罗德在身后都会说笑一句:”这人我们不卖!”这种所谓收购,当作娱乐新闻看看也就罢了。

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