Man United to launch three ‘Experience Centres’ in China by the end of 2020

Manchester United have partnered with Chinese property development group Harves to launch three ‘club-themed entertainment and experience centres’ in China by the end of 2020.

Each of the three locations is to be built in a different city, with Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang the towns chosen. The idea is to build a physical location that Manchester United can maintain in China, anchoring the club to the country in a way that digital media can’t.

Last May, Arsenal opened a sports bar in China in a similar move, aimed at giving the club a presence in the everyday physical lives of their fans.

That sounds like a strange thing to write, and it is. But up until now, it’s been digital media that’s filled the void. From accounts on Weibo and other Chinese digital platforms to the games broadcast live in the country on matchday, United – and other Premier League – fans in the country would have to make do with supporting their teams through the veil of a screen. Apart from those rare occasions every few years when the teams come to play pre-season tournaments and take part in other events in the country.

Expansion into Asia and beyond is the logical next step for a league that is spectacularly popular well outside its own country and clubs like United are in a better position to take advantage of that because their support is more tangible than that of the league as a whole.

United first visited China in 1975 according to Richard Arnold, who also says that United’s ability to host events for fans in the country is part of what makes them more than a football club. It was digital media that allowed British football to extend its reach into China and other places but that only goes so far.

United and others are hoping that the physical and emotional connections to clubs that their fans in England have can be replicated around the world.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 822 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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