Chance for Chinese fans to buy United shirts

  • Other Sport
  • Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003

SHANGHAI: Manchester United fans will soon be able to buy official team shirts in China, albeit via a website, as the English champions tap into the country’s lucrative support base. 

Internet portal Lycos has signed an agreement with the massively popular English Premier League team to sell their products on the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai Daily said yesterday. 

Lycos entered into a four-year deal with United last May to run a Chinese-language website for the club, who also allow it to sell shirts, it said. 

“Manchester United want to strengthen their presence in the Chinese market, which accounts for up to 40% of the club’s fan base outside Britain,” the newspaper quoted Rex Mai, managing director of Lycos Asia (China), as saying. 

Over the past three years United have opened at least 10 of their own “Mega Stores” across Asia, where replica team shirts have proven a big hit. 

While there are no such stores in China yet, and cheap pirated shirts can be found throughout the country, European football teams are planning aggressive marketing strategies to tap the country’s huge merchandising potential. 

“I think real United fans will pay the price for any official products,” said Han Sheng, head of Shanghai’s local United fan club.        

“Before, we could only ask friends to bring back those products from overseas. At least it’s more convenient now.” 

United shirts are advertised as costing between 70 and 80 euros (700 to 800 yuan) on the club’s official English website and while no figure was given for the cost in China, Mai indicated they could cost more, given shipping fees. 

On China’s streets, a fake team shirt can be picked up for as little as 100 yuan. 

This summer Real Madrid’s star-studded team, including David Beckham, Ronaldo and Luis Figo breezed through China on a nine-day promotional tour that proved hugely popular. 

The team also have plans to tap China’s 1.3 billion-strong population, with plans afoot to open a football school and specialty stores in Beijing selling the club’s memorabilia. – AFP  

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