Billionaire Wang Jianlin is backing a plan to launch a European football league to rival the Uefa Champions League, which will see more money flowing to the continent’s top clubs.
According to the Financial Times, Dalian Wanda Group, owned by Wang, is said to be in talks with Uefa but is willing to set up a completely separate competition if negotiations break down.
Marco Bogarelli, strategic director of Wanda Sports Holding, said its aim was to get more teams from Europe’s ‘big five’ TV markets. This would see a tournament full of teams like Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, while smaller clubs with less earning potential would be excluded.
“Many talented players are deciding to play in Asia instead of coming to Europe,” said Marco. “One day Asia will have the money for Cristiano Ronaldo to play there … It is in the common interest for these five leagues to have football growing in Europe [in order to] maintain its leadership.”
Uefa has been under pressure in recent years to shake up its management of the Champions League, the annual competition which sees competition between the top teams in Europe’s domestic leagues.
“It is not the first time that there has been speculation regarding the possibility of a breakaway league, and it probably won’t be the last,” said Theodore Theodoridis, Uefa’s interim general secretary.
The new competition would be a stepping stone in Wang’s plan to build an entertainment giant capable of satisfying China’s rising middle class. Closer to home, Wang is already busily constructing a number of theme parks which he hopes will drive Disney from the domestic market.
The Dalian Wanda group is also behind the recent film adaption of Warcraft which proved to be a smash hit at the Chinese box office.