By Paul Nicholson
November 28 – German and Chinese governments have signed the equivalent of a football trade deal – the first of its kind between two governments – China’s vice-premier Liu Yandong and German chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel signed the partnership which will run for an initial five years.
The deal “comprises a comprehensive agreement at government level and separate agreements between the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) and Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL), on the one hand, and the Chinese Ministry of Education and Chinese Soccer Association, on the other,” said a DFB release.
Christian Seifert, CEO of DFL, said: “DFL has had good relations with China for a long time. There will be many aspects to our collaboration, for instance, the exchange of ideas and experiences between German and Chinese clubs as regards youth academies. These are topics we will now pursue together, and both sides will benefit from the partnership.”
In total, three treaties have been signed: a comprehensive agreement at government level along with separate agreements between the DFB/DFL, on the one hand, and the Chinese ministry of education and Chinese soccer association, on the other.
Merkel has been the most regular visitor to China of European government leaders, averaging twice a year over the past five years, Siefert has been part of German delegations on some of these trips. The German relationship with the Chinese has at times been a bit of a rollercoaster, according to one political observer, with the Germans having blocked Chinese acquisition of two high tech companies considered to be in the German national interest.
The football agreement is the outcome of earlier talks between Merkel and Jinping, and the ‘feel-good’ part of a wider range of trade deals being negotiated. Jinping is said to have been attracted to the German football model and the country’s resurgence on the international stage – from its loss in the group phase of the European Cup in 2000 to its 2006 hosting of the World Cup and its victory in the World Cup 2014. China has ambition to both host the World Cup and eventually win it.
Signed last Friday in the chancellery in Berlin, the following day representatives of both countries’ clubs and associations met at German club FC Köln for discussions that covered the training of players, coaches and referees, and collaboration at club level.
The meeting attendees were high level and included DFL president Dr. Reinhard Rauball, DFL CEO Christian Seifert, DFL 1st vice president Peter Peters, DFB secretary-general Dr. Friedrich Curtius, DFB member of the presidential board Osnabrugge, Bundesliga club FC Bayern München board member Jörg Wacker, Borussia Dortmund director marketing Carsten Cramer, FC Schalke 04 board member Alexander Jobst and 1. FC Köln president Werner Spinner and managing director Alexander Wehrle.
The Chinese were represented by Hao Ping, vice-minister of education, Cai Zhenhua, who is vice-minister of the State General Administration of Sports and president of the Chinese Football Association, as well as a number of officials from different clubs.
The Bundesliga has already established a foothold in China but the new treaties – and particularly the government encouragement – will provide the opportunity to expand on that significiantly.
Eight German clubs already rank among the top 33 most popular football clubs in the country, with FC Bayern München the most popular of them. In the 2015/16 season, five Bundesliga matches were among the ten most-watched football matches in China.
“The goal of the partnership is to achieve an ongoing mutual exchange of ideas and experience between the two countries. Comprehensive measures are to be taken to support the development of football in China,” said the DFB.
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