Manchester United are to open a series of club-themed entertainment and experience centres throughout China, the club revealed in a statement on Tuesday.

With more than 100 million followers on Chinese social media, Manchester United will build the centres in partnership with Chinese property developer Harves.

The first centres are scheduled to open in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang by the end of 2020. The Beijing center will be located in the historic Qianmen Dashilan area next to Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City.

“Fans who visit will be able to experience the thrill of a matchday at Old Trafford, as well as learning about the history and heritage of English football's most successful and storied club,” the statement said.

“We're very excited to be partnering with Harves on the Manchester United Entertainment and Experience Centres concept, offering our millions of Chinese fans the chance to experience the club in a new and innovative way,” said Manchester United's Group Managing Director Richard Arnold.

“We first visited China in 1975 and we're proud to have seen our fanbase in the region grow and develop their passion for United over the years. This new concept will allow them to get closer to the club they love.”

Harves CEO Zhang Bo added, “We are excited to bring the rituals and emotions of the Manchester United experience to the youth in China, capturing what it feels like to be a member of this elite club. We will create a fully immersive experience that entertains, educates, and inspires the next generation of football fans.”

Harves is a Chinese real estate development and investment firm that has developed 55 million square feet of real estate over the last two decades, with a growing portfolio of assets that include airlines, hospitality, and operations management. Harves Entertainment is focused on developing next generation cultural experiences for young people and families in China, in partnership with the China Development Bank.

According to an investigation conducted by UK media in 2016, Manchester United had no fewer than 65 official commercial partners, among which is the Chinese digital media platform Sina Sports, which agreed a multi-year deal to make United's official TV channel MUTV available to over 100 million fans in China.

United's move to strengthen their brand in China comes as Chinese businesses are increasingly investing in the Premier League, with clubs such as Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers being majority Chinese-owned, and Chinese-language advertising frequently on display at stadiums across the Premier League. 

In Australia, Newcastle Jets is owned by the Chinese Ledman Group, Adelaide United has part Chinese ownership although they have not revealed themselves, and Melbourne City is owned by the City Football Group which has 13% Chinese ownership. 

Categories: News | Asia | Premier League | Football Business

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