Manchester City's owners buy stake in third-tier Chinese soccer club

  • City Football Group (CFG) buys majority stake in Chinese third division team.
  • Tencent-backed robotics company UBTECH and China Sports Capital have jointly purchased the remaining 13 per cent in Sichuan Jiuniu FC.
  • UBTECH has been a partner of Manchester City since 2016.
A general view of the Etihad Stadium.
Richard Sellers | EMPICS | PA Images | Getty Images
A general view of the Etihad Stadium.

The parent company of English Premier League champions Manchester City announced Wednesday that it has added a seventh soccer club to its growing stable.

Partnering with Chinese robotic AI company UBTECH and China Sports Capital, City Football Group (CFG) has jointly purchased China League Two side Sichuan Jiuniu FC.

"Today marks an exciting new chapter in the growth of City Football Group. China is an extremely important football market, which we have been focused on for some time," Ferran Soriano, Chief Executive Officer of CFG, said in a statement.

Based in Chengdu, the third-tier Sichuan Jiuniu FC has only existed since 2006 and play their home games at the 27,000-capacity Chengdu Longquanyi Football Stadium. However, the average attendance for a home fixture has been far below that number and the team won just 6 of 28 games last season.

Soriano said Sichuan Jiuniu FC will be art the core of improving soccer in China.

"We believe strongly in the future of football in China. We are making a long-term, sustainable commitment to grow and develop Sichuan Jiuniu FC and to nurture Chinese footballing talent. These objectives are equally important," Soriano added.

In addition to Manchester City, CFG also owns MLS side New York City FC, Australia's Melbourne City, Uruguay's Club Atletico Torque, a joint majority stake in Spanish club Girona and a minority stake in Japan's Yokohama F. Marinos.

UAE-China ties

CFG is a holding company in which Abu Dhabi United Group owns an 87 per cent stake with the remaining 13 per cent held by the China Media Capital consortium (CMC).

China Sports Capital was established by CMC and venture capital giant Sequoia China in 2017 while humanoid robotics manufacturer UBTECH has been a commercial partner of Manchester City since 2016.

UBTECH has been developing humanoid AI robots since 2012 and achieved a valuation of $5 billion in 2018. As part of its product range it has created a Star Wars Stormtrooper style robot, offering voice commands and an augmented reality feature.

China has invested heavily in the soccer in recent years, boosting its domestic league by signing a number of high-profile, international players and coaches. It's President Xi Jinping has regularly suggested he wants to bring the FIFA World Cup to China, potentially launching a bid to host the 2030 competition.