Former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was spotted in the crowd during Guangzhou’s 3-0 victory over Henan on Sunday and is apparently connected with a move to bring top-level football back to Yunnan province.
Chinese media reports that Eriksson is heading up a consortium interested in setting up a Liverpool-affiliated training academy in the provincial capital, Kunming, which is the training base of choice for the Chinese national team and Chinese Super League clubs in the pre-season, due to its 2,000-metre altitude. Liverpool actively solicit franchise opportunities for their academy system on their official website.
The nature of the connection between the investors, Liverpool FC and Eriksson is not explained. The consortium would appear to be the Reignwood Group, and a Thai investment company. Chinese reports suggest these investors are working with the Yunnan provincial government who are keen to see professional football return to the far south-west for the first time in nearly a decade. Kunming-based Yunnan Hongta were bought by Chongqing Lifan in 2003 to preserve their top division status
Kunming is one of China’s up-and-coming cities and the capital of Yunnan provice. It’s currently being moulded into a southeast Asian transport hub with high-speed rail links under construction, and new airport opening later this year, and a move to bring professional football back to the city would fit.
The city has sports training infrastructure and facilities already in place, and has supported the Chinese national team relatively well when World Cup qualifiers have been staged there. The reports say the Yunnan government would most likely try to buy a second division team, with Guangzhou Rizhiquan and Shenzhen thought to be its main targets. The close season move of Shaanxi Chanba to Yunnan’s neighbouring province Guizhou is likely to be an influential factor in local authority desire to bring pro football back to Kunming.
UK tabloid The Sun did report last week that Eriksson had been offered a post as “head of football in Yunnan Province”, and the Chinese press said the Swede took the opportunity to check out the Guangzhou game whilst in China on a business trip.
The reports stressed he is not being lined up to take over the Evergrande hot seat from Lee Jang-Soo.