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Carson Yeung outlines his plans for Birmingham City

Fri 16th Apr 2010 | Clubs Ownership

In an exclusive interview with F.C .Business, Carson Yeung the Birmingham City owner has revealed his belief that Birmingham have a unique advantage over Premier League rivals as they attempt to grow the club in China and the Far East – nationality.

The Chinese-born, Hong Kong-based tycoon said that, in contrast, some might not even be able to gain a foothold in the region at all.

The central plank of Yeung’s future vision is to make Blues ‘China’s club’ and generate revenue from the huge markets in and around his homeland.

Already a £7.8 million deal has been struck with kit suppliers Xtep, the first agreement of its kind between an English club and a Chinese manufacturer.

And although Yeung and his board are realistic enough to understand that it would be tough to match the popularity and pull of world powers Manchester United and Real Madrid in the Far East, they feel there is a niche available there for Blues. “China society in business terms is a very open, business-minded society,” said the Blues president.

“But at the same time it’s a society where people like to move step-by-step. So Birmingham having a Chinese owner just might help to facilitate matters. I believe for us to build up the necessary repertoire with partners is easier because of that.

“Other clubs probably need more time, even if they can achieve it at all.”

Blues have also formed a joint venture company with Beijing Armstrong International – Birmingham China – for business and marketing purposes.

“We’ve got many deals under consideration and we’re having discussions about a lot of projects,” said Yeung.

“Obviously I cannot tell you too much in detail because these are commercial secrets.

‘‘But as part of this Xtep deal, we’ve got a relationship within that company and outside it that allows us to explore merchandising opportunities, and image rights possibilities of some of our future players, which could be valuable in a country of between 1.3 billion and 1.4 billion people.”

Yeung insisted that the forthcoming pre-season tour of Hong Kong and China would lay bare the mushrooming Blues interest that isn’t quite appreciated on these shores.

Blues are arranging games in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai with all venues, dates and opposition still to be confirmed.

“You’ll see quite obviously some of the impact we’re making in China [then]. You’ll see the exposure and the publicity around the club.”

Yeung did not promise that Blues would become huge immediately: “But what we can promise is promotion, strengthening of the team, and exposure.”

While much has been made of Seymour Pierce’s threat to take control of Blues if Yeung doesn’t cough up a £2.2 million ‘success fee’ for advising on the acquisition of the club in 2007, it is unlikely to come to pass.

Birmingham International Holdings, Yeung’s takeover vehicle, responded by issuing a statement in Hong Kong insisting nothing would change.

Signed off by Warren Ko, the group lawyer, it read: “ . . . the amount in dispute is immaterial to it [Birmingham International Holdings] and if payment is required to be made, will not have any material adverse effect on its financial condition or business.

“It is stressed that Birmingham International Holdings Limited has not and will not lose control of Birmingham City Football Club as a result of this litigation.”

As far as manager Alex McLeish is concerned, it is business as usual. Regardless of the row rumbling on, Blues will still be able to buy and sell players and arrange new contracts.

“Nothing has changed,” said McLeish. “I have not had any new directives from anybody. We just carry on, business as normal.

“It’s an administration part of the club. It’s probably one of these ones that can be a big agitating and it’s up to Carson Yeung and Peter Pannu to sort it out.

‘‘I’m sure they will. I don’t see it escalating. I will stick to the technical [football] side.”

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