Manchester City owner City Football Group (CFG) announced a landmark investment in Chinese football with the purchase of a third-tier Chinese club Sichuan Jiuniu at a press conference on Wednesday in Chengdu.
CFG completed the investment along with AI & robotics company UBTECH and China Sports Capital, adding Jiuniu as its seventh football club investment.
The Chengdu-based Sichuan Jiuniu plays its home games at the 27,000-capacity Chengdu Longquanyi Football Stadium and will kick off its new season in March. The club was formed by the 2017 Sichuan National Games Under-20 team.
Jiuniu was the first third-tier side in history to reach quarterfinal stage in the Chinese Football Association Cup 2018.
City Football Group (CFG), established in 2013, is the owner of a number of football-related businesses around the world, including football clubs, academies, technical support and marketing companies. CFG's clubs include Premier League Champions Manchester City FC and New York City FC in Major League Soccer.
CFG's presence in China includes offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen, several commercial partnerships, community projects and football education as part of a Chinese Ministry of Education program.
Ferran Soriano, CFG CEO, said the purchase signaled its strong confidence in the future of football in China, and a natural extension of its existing activities.
"China is an extremely important football market," Ferran Soriano added, "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."
CFG will work with other shareholders to focus on strengthening Jiuniu's performance, forging a strong relationship with fans and building a strong presence in the community.
"We believe AI technology will promote the development of the football industry to a new level and we will focus on developing Jiuniu to be a century-old club," said Zhou Jian, CEO of UBTECH, which has been a commercial partner of Manchester City since 2016.
China Sports Capital is jointly founded by China Media Capital (CMC) Consortium and Sequoia China. CMC became a minority shareholder of City Football Group in December 2015.
China has boasted a booming football market since the issue of a reform plan in 2015. China's top league the Chinese Super League (CSL) hosts a plethora of football stars from Europe and South America.