Chelsea and FansMall agree to regional deal in China

Fansmall & Chelsea

Premier League side Chelsea have teamed up with FansMall, China’s largest sports trading card platform – on a multi-year deal that will see them becoming Chelsea’s official trading card & sports collectibles partner in Greater China.

Founded in 2019, FansMall provide a variety of services around sporting collectibles and cards – which includes a retail platform, a trading platform, social media communities, and card collector apps. Its operations include the development of trade ecology for ball card collections, sporting brand promotions, production of media content, and much more.

FansMall Founder Sebastian Zhao said via press release:

“FansMall is honoured and delighted to establish a long-term partnership with Chelsea FC, one of the most respected and beloved football clubs in China with a winning culture and a fine tradition of success,” he said.

“As the club’s Official Trading Card & Sports Collectibles Partner in Greater China, FansMall is dedicated to bringing the best trading card collectibles to fans and collectors and we will release an exclusive selection of Chelsea trading card products for this season and the seasons to come.”

In recent years, Chelsea has established a strong presence in Greater China, led by the club’s regional Asian headquarters in Singapore. They were able to hold pre-season games in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau. FansMall will create a collection of Chelsea-themed trading cards for the Greater China market via this partnership, and Chelsea’s fanbase in China will have access to exclusive merchandise such as signed memorabilia and match-worn shirts.

Chelsea President of Business, Tom Glick, added via press release:

“We are delighted to welcome FansMall as our Official Trading Card & Sports Collectibles Partner in the Greater China region. FansMall is a fantastic addition to our family of partners at Chelsea FC and we look forward to working closely with them and introducing our fans in Greater China to their highly impressive range of exclusive Chelsea-theme cards and collectibles.”

The partnership will expand Chelsea’s already massive fan following in China, and along with partners such as FansMall creating innovative sporting collectibles to give a global audience a unique experience, this will eventually lead to setting up a better ecosystem for sporting services and products in the near future.

Premier League continues talks on cost control and EFL funding

Premier League club bosses are holding further talks regarding cost control measures for clubs competing in European football and additional funding for the EFL.

The top flight is examining the introduction of a model along similar lines to UEFA’s squad cost ratio, which by 2025-26 will cap the spending of clubs involved in European competitions on wages, transfer fees and agent costs at 70 per cent of revenue.

It is understood that clubs in the Premier League not competing in European competitions will be allowed more leeway on spending, with a ratio of around 85 per cent of revenue having been discussed. This is potentially to ensure a more level playing field for mid table Premier League clubs who are struggling to break that barrier.

There is a major roadblock, however, in these talks with relegated Premier League clubs still earning parachute payments in their first season back in the Championship and being able to continue working to the 85 per cent ratio whilst the bottom half Championship clubs are working on a much tighter budget, closer to the 70 per cent UEFA mark.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters spoke about these talks advancing and what it means for the future of both leagues.

“We have some proposals out for consultation with our clubs about moving and aligning more with the UEFA system,” Masters said at the Culture, Media and Sport committee.

“Some of the issues that are still at debate between the EFL and the Premier League and internally within the Premier League itself are about trying to find a resolution on exactly how the financial regulatory system will work in the future.

“There’s an area of disagreement between us on how cost controls are going to work. Because obviously if you’re going to put more money into a system, that system has to be properly regulated. That system has yet to be fully agreed on how Championship clubs, how relegated clubs and how Premier League clubs operate a common system.” he concluded.

In terms of the extra funding agreement being discussed, EFL Chairman Rick Parry announced that his competition was prepared to accept an amount that would equate to 14.75 per cent of the two competitions’ net media revenues, which he said worked out at an extra £125million ($240 million) a year.

Whilst this is a huge positive for the footballing ladder in England, there is still a debate amongst clubs and representatives over how the extra funding to the EFL should be paid out.

Recently relegated sides are already working on a bigger budget, whilst sides in the bottom half are struggling to pay player wages with this disparity being completely unacceptable.

So it definitely begs the question, does majority of the extra £125million ($240 million) a year go towards helping bottom clubs compete in the long term? or would that be a stain on the league’s integrity and fair play values?

Votes were not casted in last week’s meetings regarding cost control measures or extra funding, but reports suggest that a conclusion is being made swiftly with both parties eager to agree on a fair deal.

MLS NEXT Pro continues to expand with Connecticut United addition

Connecticut United FC joins MLS Next Pro

Connecticut (CT) United FC will join the ever-growing MLS NEXT Pro League in 2025, in a move that promises to reinvigorate the US state through investment in football infrastructure.

CT United becomes the fifth independent team to join US football’s third-tier national competition, which serves as a valuable development tool for young players at the 27 existing Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs.

It joins teams from Jacksonville, Florida and Chattanooga – who were recently announced by the MLS NEXT organisation.

Chattanooga FC have been competing at state-level for 15 years, allowing it to join the competition in 2024 alongside fellow independent club, Carolina Core FC.

Jacksonville Armada are expected to enter alongside CT United and a team from Cleveland, Ohio, in 2025.

The nucleus of CT United’s football operation will be based in Connecticut’s capital city, Bridgeport, after its Planning and Zoning Commission approved a project for a waterfront football-specific stadium.

The stadia will be a part of a larger infrastructure plan to create a mixed-use destination for retail, residential, and community zones. Bridgeport’s Mayor, Joseph Ganim, says the city is ready to drive the project.

“Bridgeport is in the midst of a renaissance, rebranding from an industrial city to now the capital of arts and entertainment of Connecticut,” he said via media release.

“I am proud to announce that MLS NEXT Pro will join that landscape in providing entertainment opportunities for Bridgeport residents and the region at large.”

The club’s formation represents the first foray into sports ownership for the Connecticut Sports Group (CTSG), an organisation founded and led by Connecticut local and technology entrepreneur, André Swanston.

Though in its infant stages, the organisation relies primarily upon its partnership with the University of Connecticut, and minor investors within the state.

Swanston, 42, becomes not just one of the youngest principal owners of a football club in the country, but also making a difference as one of the few Black sports owners in US sport overall.

“As CT United FC embarks on its MLS NEXT Pro journey, I want to extend deep gratitude to the incredible fans, community leaders and government officials who have embraced our vision – I am confident that, united, Connecticut can compete against anyone,” he proclaimed via press release.

“We are committed to building the infrastructure – from a free youth academy to a state-of-the-art stadium – needed to propel Connecticut to the highest levels of soccer.”

The formation of CT United represents an exciting prospect for the people of Connecticut, who will be eager to see CTSG deliver on its vision to ‘create unforgettable experiences that inspire communities.’

It also showcases Major League Soccer’s continuing expansion, and intent to re-invigorate communities across North America.

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