Is football a key to China's economic investment?

Clifford Coonan spoke to Breakfast Business about the link

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Chinese fans celebrate after their side scored during an AFC Asia Cup game earlier this year (AP Photo/Andrew Taylor)

Chinese investment in football is continuing to expand at a rapid pace. Last week a Chinese consortium purchased a 20% stake in the Manchester City's owners, while Spanish giant Atletico Madrid sold a 20% stake in the team to the Chinese company Wanda earlier this year.

Newstalk's Business Editor Vincent Wall spoke to the Irish Times China Correspondent Clifford Coonan about how Chinese investment may help teams both nationally and domestically.

The Chinese Super League is becoming more popular and Chinese President Xi Jinping has been crucial in helping get rid of corruption from the game according to Coonan. "A lot of very senior figures in the game have been jailed in recent years as part of this probe (instigated by Xi). Now that there is a clean slate in many ways, interest is coming back to the game. A lot had shifted to basketball. The NBA has been very successful here but people are getting back into football again."

Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande won the Asian Champions League last month and Coonan says the news was "a big deal". "The national game is still struggling" which helped Guangzhou's publicity in winning the continental crown. The Chinese national team have only reached the World Cup once. They finished bottom of their group in 2002, failing to score a goal. The current team got knocked out in the quarter finals at the Asian Cup earlier this year.

Coonan added that Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin has said that he will devote himself to improving the Chinese game once he retires. The President's love of football has helped grow the game according to Coonan. "It's a big help in promoting the game."

"Soccer clubs are viewed as a good investment" for Chinese owners, Coonan concluded.