Manchester United are to open a series of club-themed entertainment and experience centers throughout China, the club revealed in a statement on Tuesday.
The English Premier League club, which has over 100 million followers on Chinese social media, will build the centers in partnership with Chinese property developer Harves.
The first centers are scheduled to open in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang by the end of 2020. The Beijing center will be located in the historic Qianmen Dashilan area next to Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City.
“Fans who visit will be able to experience the thrill of a matchday at Old Trafford, as well as learning about the history and heritage of English football’s most successful and storied club,” the statement added.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Harves on the Manchester United Entertainment and Experience Centres concept, offering our millions of Chinese fans the chance to experience the club in a new and innovative way,” said Manchester United’s Group Managing Director Richard Arnold.
“We first visited China in 1975 and we’re proud to have seen our fanbase in the region grow and develop their passion for United over the years. This new concept will allow them to get closer to the club they love.”
Harves CEO Zhang Bo added, “We are excited to bring the rituals and emotions of the Manchester United experience to the youth in China, capturing what it feels like to be a member of this elite club. We will create a fully immersive experience that entertains, educates, and inspires the next generation of football fans.”
Manchester United enjoy considerable popularity both at home and abroad, which club administrators have long sought to convert into additional sources of revenue. A 2016 investigation by the Daily Mirror newspaper revealed that United had no fewer than 65 official commercial partners, among which is the Chinese digital media platform Sina Sports, which agreed a multi-year deal to make United’s official TV channel MUTV available to over 100 million fans in China.
United’s move to strengthen their brand in China comes as Chinese businesses are increasingly investing in the Premier League, with clubs such as Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers being majority Chinese-owned, and Chinese-language advertising frequently on display at stadiums across the Premier League.