Carson Yeung, the owner of Birmingham City, hopes a reality TV program will unearth Chinese players who could one day play in the English Premier League.
Numerous sports dream of “cracking” China and making the most of the potential opportunities afforded by making an impact in the world’s most populous nation.
Hong Kong businessman Yeung, explaining his plans, told FC Business and the Independent: “We’ll send coaches from England and the top boys who are selected will have a promotional attachment with our training school.We are working out the details now and the program is imminent. That will give us exposure on TV on a weekly basis, starting in Hong Kong, then hopefully in China.”
Yeung, however, stressed that City manager Alex McLeish, who has guided the Midlands club to an impressive ninth place in the table following last season’s promotion, would continue to have a free hand in selection and that no player would be imposed upon him purely for commercial reasons.
“Let me be clear that this is not something that we are doing in isolation,” Yeung said. “Alex McLeish is on top of the situation and aware of what we want to do, and there is no notion that we would ever tell Alex McLeish how to do his job or who to play.”
“McLeish is excellent. We couldn’t ask for anyone better,” Yeung said. “We’re not suggesting we’re going to impose a [Chinese] striker and remove James McFadden, that would be ridiculous, but McLeish understands there is a commercial connotation if we can find a promising Chinese player. He’s excited that if we can unearth potential, and under his hand a player could be groomed to become English football’s [answer to Chinese NBA basketball star] Yao Ming, that can be positive for the club.”
Yeung’s comments came as investment bank Seymour Pierce threatened to wrest control of Birmingham over what it said was an unpaid debt of £2.2 million (US$3.3 million) it claims it is owed for advising the City owner in his takeover of the club, completed in November last year.
Seymour Pierce spokesman Neil Bennett said on Thursday: “Seymour Pierce advised Carson Yeung and his company ... on the takeover of Birmingham City and they were due to pay Seymour Pierce a success fee for £2.2 million.”
“They didn’t pay it. Seymour Pierce has gone to court and won the High Court case,” Bennett said. “The Hong Kong company was given 14 days to pay the money. That expired on Monday. They haven’t paid so in effect they are in contempt of court and Seymour Pierce has taken the necessary steps to effectively take control of Birmingham City to recover the debt.”
A statement issued by Birmingham International Holdings said it intended to appeal.
McLeish, however, did not expect the row to distract his players in the closing weeks of the season.
“I think the players only read about themselves and do not start looking at the business section of newspapers,” the former Scotland centerhalf said. “I don’t think they are going to rush out and buy the Financial Times.”