Newcastle Jets are set to tour China in August as the club ramps up its efforts to become the Hyundai A-League club of choice for Chinese football fans.
At Tuesday’s launch of the Jets’ new owners the Ledman Group, headed by Chinese businessman Martin Lee, it was revealed the club plans to play a series of friendlies in China in late August.
Lee’s vision is for the Jets to have Chinese fans both in China and across Australia over time, helped by “one or two” Chinese players joining the Jets in the future.
The China tour may have to work around any Westfield FFA Cup commitments the Jets may have in August, but it’s an early sign that the club’s new owners want to expand their fan base and leverage the relationship between the two countries.
“The A-League is getting more and more attention from China through the Asian Champions League,” Lee told a large contingent of Australian and Chinese media on Tuesday at Hunter Stadium.
“Also the Australian national team won the Asian Cup. And Ledman has a very good network in China. So we do very good promotions for our acquisitions.
“And we also want one or two Chinese players in the future to join the Jets so we can get more and more attraction to Chinese fans.
"This is not only a good business decision but also a good decision for our two countries, Ledman and the local [Hunter] community."
The businessman explained Ledman’s ability to promote their own brands across the vast Chinese market would work very much in the Jets’ and the A-League’s favour.
"Now in China, football is booming. It is a very good direction. So, the strategy of our company," explained Lee, "is to invest money in China but also in overseas markets in football areas."
To that end, FFA CEO David Gallop will be in Beijing in early July to promote the merits of the A-League to Chinese business leaders.
Ledman sponsors the Portuguese second division, owns Chinese second division outfit Shenzhen Renren and has a strategic holding in InFront Sports and Media Group.
Lee spoke passionately about making the Jets the team of choice for Chinese fans.
“Ledman has many, many promotional messages [in China] including the advertisement times in the Chinese Super League for a very big network in national TV to promote anything, including Newcastle,” Lee said.
“So I think in the future we will get more fans in China."
Lee’s stated ambition is for the Jets to qualify for the Asian Champions League within three years.
If so, when they play in China against some of the teams in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, expect extra local Jets support to cheer the Australian team on.
“This is a very good story!” he said with a smile. “Three years later this will be a very good story!”
Lee also noted he would not be changing the club’s red and blue colours. “I think the colours are beautiful,” he said.