Beer firm signs cut-price deal to sponsor CSL

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2007, 12:00am

A domestic brewer came to the rescue of the financially troubled Chinese Super League with a last-minute title sponsorship deal on the eve of yesterday's season kick-off.

But the backing offered by Kingway Beer - unveiled yesterday in Wuhan, Hubei province, hours before a ceremony to mark the start of the season - is the latest proof of the downward spiral in the league's commercial value.

The agreement, the major source of income for the league, is worth just 36 million yuan. In contrast, German conglomerate Siemens signed a deal worth about 80 million yuan three years ago. Siemens decided against renewing its commitment in 2005 after a chaotic season the previous year, ridden by match-fixing allegations and on-pitch violence, among other problems.

British internet phone service provider Iphox stepped in last year for a reported 500 million yuan package over eight years but withdrew after failing to get its products licensed in China.

On the field yesterday, title favourites Shanghai Shenhua suffered a shock 2-0 defeat against visiting Beijing Hyundai. Goals from Tao Wei and Alzon Mendez sank the hosts, who recently merged with Shanghai United.

Shenhua's Uruguayan manager, Osvaldo Gimenez, said he was battling to forge a team spirit among his players, who belonged to two different camps just one month ago. 'Some of them even didn't know each other until very recently,' said Gimenez. 'But I do not doubt our championship credentials this season. As time goes on, things will swing in our favour, for certain.'

Elsewhere, Liaoning were crushed 5-2 by reigning champions Shandong Luneng; Zhejiang Lvcheng and Qingdao Zhongneng played out a 1-1 draw; Tianjin Teda and Wuhan Guanggu shared the points in similar fashion; and Shenzhen were deadlocked with Xi'an Chanba in a 0-0 snoozer.