Dalian Wanda’s disastrous football sponsorship
A Spanish lawyer arrived in Beijing on July 1, the legal representative of former Team China manager Camacho, to sort out the contractual situation with China Football Association (CFA). The strangest thing happened in the negotiation, none of the CFA heads appeared, just three lawyers representing the CFA, and another representative from Dalian Wanda Group, the real estate developer who sponsored CFA for international coach recruits.
This problem for the CFA over the sacking of Camacho is that he still had another 18 months on this contract. There were no quarrels or arguments during the negotiation and the CFA had to pay Camacho and his assistant team of four the full package: all together €6.45 million. Beyond that figure, CFA is also liable for almost €3 million of tax.
Dalian Wanda Group would be paying Camacho’s remaining 18 months on the contract, the tax remains the CFA’s responsibility. When the news broke, another huge wave of anger spread among the social media networks. The famous joke linked CFA with the recently found guilty former GM of the National High Speed Railway Company: “The difference is that the GM of NHSRC embezzled a big sum of money but got the railways done, CFA wasted a big sum of money and kept China football in deep shit…”
Dalian Wanda is one of the leading real estate companies in China, and built its national brand awareness in football long before the upstart Guangzhou EverGrande. Dalian Wanda was the owner of Dalian FC, the club they gave to Xu Ming, another controversial businessman who is currently in prison. Wanda had distanced itself from football for more than ten years, and only as late as in 2011, when there were clear signs from the highest political echelons of strong interests in football, that Wanda revived their warmth towards football.
In 2011, there was a big announcement from Wanda for a ‘Total Support Scheme for China Football’, in which operation they contributed about €60 million to the CFA, for international coach recruitments, title sponsor of the China Super League as well as youth development. The CSL is now called the Wanda Plaza CSL.
However, the investment in international coach recruitment backfired terribly with this failure in Camacho. Rumors were that Wanda made the decision of nominating Camacho at a very awkward time: six weeks before Team China’s participation in the qualification group matches for World Cup 2014. Wanda denied this accusation vehemently, but the damage is done, and this sponsorship didn’t bring any positives to the brand reputation of Wanda.
The contractual clauses were unusual, to a certain extent. Just 12 months before Team China confirmed Camacho as the head coach of the national team, Guangzhou EverGrande did talk to Camacho, wondering if he would become the club’s technical director, and the salary for an unemployed Camacho was about €1.5 million. In 12 months, everything changed. Camacho failed on this international job, but the same could not be said about his financial situation.
Team China has regrouped again, and is preparing for the East Asian Cup in a month’s time, and with a Chinese football coach, Fu Bo, named as the interim head coach for this event only. There are a number of players left out of the latest national team, including four players from Guangzhou EverGrande who played in the disastrous match against Thailand. More detail needs to be investigated regarding that match, whether the players were put under pressure by their clubs to take it easy whist playing in the national team, but these are now none of Camacho’s concerns – he is resting in the sunshine of Spain.
John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com