China, sports and innovation are a healthy combination

Johan Cruijf, Ruud Gullit or Robin van Persie. They are not only soccer stars in the Netherlands, but known worldwide. On the other side of the world, China is working hard to become a leading soccer country. President Xi Jinping has a grand vision for Chinese soccer and it is now being integrated in school curricula to discover and breed talent. This environment not only provides fertile ground for the Dutch approach to playing soccer, but also any sport-related technology.

In July this year, a consortium of Dutch sports companies, including Feyenoord, Royal HaskoningDHV, Vekoma, combined their expertise in the PIB program which will run for 3 consecutive years. As part of the PIB, a Dutch Sports Business Mission is visiting Chongqing and Xi’an this week.

Together we are stronger

One of the driving forces behind the creation of the PIB program, was Orange Sports Forum. Board members mr. John van de Laar and mr. Camil Smeulders as well as manager mr. Rick Sleegers are all involved in the PIB. mr. Van de Laar explains that “we came into existence in 2010. At this moment, we have about 300 companies which are interested in going abroad with their products, services and knowledge. Since there are already challenges for larger businesses expanding abroad, this is even more so for SME’s. By combining different parties and expertise, we can benefit as a consortium and make a bigger splash in China.”

The mission focuses on soccer development in Chongqing and Xi’an, paying special attention to youth development and sports facilities. The economy of both regions is growing rapidly and sport participation becomes more and more important. Dutch companies and organizations can provide a complete training package for young Chinese players. From highly skilled football trainers, to improving the soccer fields and facilities. On the Chinese side, Chongqing YuYue Culture & Media is Orange Sports Forum’s partner for opening the Western-China market.

Mr. Van de Laar explains that cooperation also benefits the companies in different ways. “The risks are lower and you expand your national network. Sports business clusters are still limited because of the top sector approach on a governmental level. Sport does not fit with one sector but touches on many different subjects, from health to innovation. But if you combine these different parties, you not only make new connections, cross-fertilization can also lead to new innovations.”

Real opportunities and cooperation

Besides the current mission, there will be different sporting occasions and other suitable events organized in China to establish good relations. One objective in the coming 3 years, is to create a Chinese-Dutch sports business hub in China. Mr. Van de Laar emphasizes that they take a long-term view in this sense. “If you start in a new market, you always have some ‘low-hanging fruits’ or easy short-term business. But we realize that to start a long-term cooperation, you need to be visible in the long-term. Furthermore, West-China is also looking abroad to fulfill its needs and other European countries are also catching up to the market.”

Even though the Western-China region might be less-known to many Dutch, the opportunities and market are tangible and real. For those who are willing to invest time and money, there can be great results, thinks mr. Van de Laar.

As our Consul-General in Chongqing mr. Koen Sizoo remarks: “Sport is a growing business worldwide and one of the best ways for nations to interact and build up connections. This visit is designed to encourage those dynamics, and I have no doubt that it be an opportunity to learn and inform, laying the foundations for further contacts and cooperation.”