China may be some way from the upper tier of Asian football, but senior officials believe the country’s financial muscle can play a major role in further improving the game in the region after a Chinese group was granted the Asian Football Confederation’s lucrative commercial rights. Wuhan-based DDMC Sports, in conjunction with Swiss company Fortis Sports, have been awarded the AFC’s commercial rights for the eight years from 2021 to 2028 after a decision taken by the body’s executive committee in Moscow this week. The winning bid – the value of which the AFC has not disclosed – came at the end of a tender process for the confederation’s rights. Officials believe the decision to work with the Chinese company can play a major role in improving the standard of the sport across the continent. “To do anything in football you need money,” said a senior AFC executive, who requested anonymity. “Asia needs more development of our football income and it’s reasonable to go with a company that brings in that money. “The difference between the Chinese company and the other bidders was huge, you can’t compare. Football in China is booming and there is a lot of development there, and don’t forget China is a part of Asia. China is within Asia. What Fifa World Cup lacks in China playing it makes up for in fans and sponsors in Russia plus eyes on the Chinese Super League “I believe it’s a good decision. I always believe in our continent and we can do more within our continent, we can help each other if we need to develop.” The deal covers the broadcasting and commercial rights for the Asian Champions League, the Asian Cup and the final round of Asia’s qualifying tournament for the Fifa World Cup for both 2022 and 2026. The rights currently reside with Lagardere Sports and Entertainment who, in their previous guise as World Sport Group, have worked alongside the confederation since 1993 and have more than two years remaining on their existing contract. Reports had claimed the deal for the eight-year contract to be worth in the region of US$4 billion, although sources have disputed that figure, claiming it to be lower. Fifa World Cup 2026 voting precedent could hurt China’s hosting hopes due to Hong Kong and Macau links Either way, the new contract sees the confederation enhance its earnings significantly from the previous eight-year deal – which was worth US$1 billion – and is a major coup for DDMC, with the move a sign the company is determined to expand beyond the Chinese market. DDMC bought the Chinese broadcast rights for the Spanish league last year as well as buying Super Sports Media, who hold the Chinese rights for the English Premier League, for US$500 million. They have also worked as a sales agent for this year’s World Cup finals in Russia “The new rights agreement will now secure the financial future of our member associations as well as help the AFC further enhance our competitions and development programmes,” said AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa when the deal was announced this week. “We are delighted to have recommended the offer from DDMC Fortis as they submitted such a compelling bid and now the AFC administration has been mandated to complete the contract as soon as possible.” What time is the World Cup on and where can I watch it in Hong Kong? Your guide to all 64 games at Russia 2018 Chinese companies have been making moves into the international sports marketing sphere in recent years, with the Wanda Group buying a controlling share of Infront, who sell the rights to the World Cup on Fifa’s behalf, while two years ago Everbright bought a stake in the MP & Silva agency. But the acquisition of the AFC’s rights by DDMC, who have little experience working outside China, came as a surprise and will thrust the company into the spotlight when the deal commences with the start of the final round of qualifying for Qatar 2022.