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China can stage world's top League : Marketing boss

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08th-Jan-2017       
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AFP, London  :
The big-spending Chinese Super League is on track to become the world's dominant football championship, the head of a leading sports marketing firm predicted in an AFP interview.
China has made global headlines in recent weeks thanks to jaw-dropping megabucks moves for Argentina striker Carlos Tevez and Brazil playmaker Oscar.
With the country also investing heavily in grassroots football, Andrew Georgiou, CEO of Lagardere Sports and Entertainment, believes that in time it will rival even the super-popular English Premier League.
"There is no doubt in my mind that at some point in time, the Chinese Super League will become as big if not bigger than any other league in the world," he told AFP in London on Friday.
"The only uncertainty in my mind is how long that will take. Because fundamentally, the market will be able to support the best players in the world playing the best football in the world in China."
Money has been pumping into Chinese football ever since China's President Xi Jinping declared his intention to turn the country into a football superpower.
The target year is 2050 and Georgiou, who has 10 years' experience in Asian sports marketing, says there is no danger of China's ruling party losing interest in the project before then.
"The good thing about China is, they're never in a rush," says the Australian.
Lagardere has helped Borussia Dortmund boost their profile in China and is due to open a second Chinese office in Shanghai.
Georgiou believes there will be a "quality tipping point" when the Chinese Super League outstrips championships such as the Premier League and Spain's La Liga, even though it might take decades.
The Chinese Super League currently operates a quota system preventing teams from signing more than four non-Asian players.
It means the vast bulk of Tevez and Oscar's new team-mates are unheralded Chinese players.
But the hope is that by tightly controlling the numbers of foreigners, China will allow its own home-grown players to blossom, which will in turn attract more high-profile players from elsewhere.
"Once that local talent has been developed, that (quota) will be released and you'll see more and more players coming to China," Georgiou says.
"Because the money will become so big in China that it'll be really important for them to go there.
"What Europe has at the moment is the prestige of playing in Europe, playing in well-established clubs, great brands that mean so much to the world.
"That'll take longer to develop in China. It's not a function of if, it's a function of when."

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