Insider says Coventry City wooing HK

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


A second advertisement in nine months has appeared in local media seeking to drum up investment for a 'famous' English soccer club.

An advertisement was placed in the South China Morning Post on Monday offering an opportunity to buy into a 'famous club with a rich history and having a top class stadium plus a state of the art academy'.

The advert said the club was a founder member of the English Premier League and remained ambitious to regain top-flight status within the next few years. Founder members of the English Premier League now plying their trade in the game's lower division are: Crystal Palace, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Middlesborough, Coventry City, Oldham Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and Wimbledon, in the guise of Milton Keynes Dons and as the fan-owned AFC Wimbledon.

However, a local football insider believes that the interested party is Coventry City, who were relegated to Football League One from the Championship last season and have faced chronic financial problems since their move to the Ricoh Arena, a venue for Olympic soccer matches.

'Coventry won the FA Cup in 1987 and spent 34 consecutive seasons in the English top flight prior to their eventual relegation in 2001,' the insider said.

'Their 32,609 capacity Ricoh Arena was opened in August 2005, and their academy is as good as any in the UK. Not only that, but they have been trying to attract investors from China for the last 12 months.'

Two months ago the Coventry Telegraph reported that wealthy Chinese businessmen were considering investing in Coventry City. Former vice-chairman Gary Hoffman has been trying to attract investors from China for the past year and is working closely with an expert in Far East investment to convince them to commit to the football club.

Ken Grant, who promotes links between businesses and global investors, spoke to the Coventry Telegraph from Shanghai saying: 'I am pleased to confirm that we are actively involved in an attempt to secure new investment into Coventry City Football Club and Arena Coventry. If successful it is anticipated that the investors, ultra-high-net-wealth Chinese nationals, will wish to secure 100 per cent of the football club and 50 per cent of the Arena.'

The Post sent a message to the e-mail address given - footballclub - looking for more details. A reply said: 'Thanks for your e-mail. Please kindly if you could e-mail your investment group details for our reference. Kind regards, Ada Chow.' There was no further contact.

Last October, Hong Kong newspapers published advertisements that sought investors for an English soccer club, which did not reveal its name. Using the e-mail address provided, the Post discovered that the club was in the Blue Square Bet Premier league, formerly known as the Football Conference, a tier below League Two. A bid representative who gave his name as Stephen James would only say 'in its day, it was much higher up the football league system. We are looking for a minimum of GBP100,000 (HK$1.23 million) from any prospective investor.'

Hongkongers don't have the best record when it comes to backing English soccer clubs. Troubled tycoon Carson Yeung Ka-shing saw his Birmingham City side relegated from the Premier League as he faced money-laundering charges at home, while Balram Chainrai is bidding to buy Portsmouth for the second time. His company Portpin first bought the club in 2010, soon after they won the FA Cup, but it has since gone into administration twice and is now in League One.