West Brom owner Lai to build ‘soccer towns’ across China with club as centrepiece

June 29 – West Bromwich Albion’s Chinese owner Guochuan Lai (pictured) and landscaping company Palm plan to construct up to six ‘soccer towns’ across China as part of Lai’s expansion of the West Brom brand across China.

A first deal has been signed with local governing bodies in the mountainous Guizhou Province to build the first sports town between Guiyang and Anshun. West Brom’s youth academy will be a centrepiece in all the locations which will be eco-focussed in their build and offer a wide range of social amenities.

“These towns are designed to be more liveable and environmentally focused than traditional cities, with integral health, cultural and leisure facilities,” said a company statement at the time of the takeover in 2016.

“Palm intends to place football facilities at the heart of communities, helping to accelerate the Chinese Government’s plans to develop football in the country and providing significant future commercial and cultural opportunities for the Club.”

Lai’s personal wealth is valued at £2.8 billion. The ‘soccer towns’ project has been a long time in planning and taps into both the government’s objectives for the development of football and environmental sustainability.

Lai has completed his £175 million acquisition of West Brom acquiring Jeremy Peace’s 88% controlling stake in the club in September last year. West Brom’s ownership is held by the Yunyi Guokai (Shanghai) Sports Development Limited, headed by Lai. Palm, which is quoted on the Chinese stock exchange and is the source of Lai’s wealth, is an investor in this company.

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