A Shenzhen-based firm’s sponsorship deal with a Portuguese football league is garnering controversy after mandating at least one Chinese player on each of the league’s 10 teams.
The sponsorship deal between the Portuguese League (LPFP) and LED-lighting manufacturer Ledman was signed in Beijing on Monday. Under conditions for the deal, the league is expected to take in a Chinese member per team, as well as three Chinese assistant managers and coaches. Locals are disgruntled about the terms.
“They can’t force Chinese players on us, it should be an option,” groused Jose Godinho, the football division’s chief.
President Joaquim Evangelista from the Portuguese professional footballers’ union agreed: “We don’t understand why the league is allowing a company to force players on to clubs and their managers.”
In response, LPFP media officer Germano Almeida merely claimed that “there will be an exchange of footballers but the League guarantees that nothing will be imposed on the clubs.”
In spite of public opinion, the higher-ups in the LPFP are decidedly in cahoots with China, even looking forward to helping develop Chinese football independent of state control. On Tuesday of last week, League president Pedro Proenca met with the Chinese Football Association’s vice president Lin Xiaohua and Chinese Super League chairman Ma Chengquan.
According to Lin, the LPFP is eager to “cooperate deeply with China for different fields of football,” and the success of the collaboration will “contribute to promoting the development of Chinese football as well as exchange of sport culture between China and Portugal.”
Ledman is now the first Chinese company to sponsor a European league. The deal comes as another show of China’s plans to increase its sports businesses 15-fold by 2025 and make its mark on the football world in general.
Incidentally, soccer super fan and Chinese President Xi Jinping has made well known his lofty dreams of China hosting and winning the World Cup… someday.
[Images via Ledman]