UEFA’s dangerous game: one-third of the sponsors come from China

In connection with the ongoing Euro soccer tournament, German newspaper “Handelsblatt” reports that UEFA is playing a dangerous game: 1/3 of the sponsors are from China. Alipay, Hisense, Vivo, Jitterbug – the concentration of Chinese companies advertising at the European soccer championship raises questions. Where the money comes from seems to be a secondary issue.

Business Daily found it striking that Volkswagen of Germany is the only European company among the sponsors of this year’s Euro soccer tournament, and that 1/3 of the team of 12 UEFA financiers are from China, with the rest coming from Russia, the United States and the Arab world. UEFA writes about great goals such as international understanding, human rights, tolerance and anti-racism. Where the money for their mega kick-off show comes from seems to be of secondary importance. In any case, there are few European values to be seen from the sponsors.

UEFA not only won several Chinese sponsors, but managed to win the sponsorship of Russian state-owned Gazprom before the start of the tournament. In 2016, UEFA raised a total of 483 million euros for such “commercial rights”.

Russian and Chinese sponsors are suspect. In particular, the concentration of Chinese companies raises more questions. This year’s UEFA Euro soccer tournament showcased a hodgepodge of Far Eastern sponsors. At times, even Chinese characters shone in front of the European audience. According to Düsseldorf media expert Thomas Koch, “UEFA has gotten very far from the audience.”

Through advertisements on the pitch, viewers can experience Chinese suppliers whose products are little known or rarely used, such as Hisense home appliances, VIVO smartphones and Alipay. Alipay has even been in a relationship with UEFA through 200 million euros for eight years. Short video specialist Jitterbug has now joined the sponsor’s team. This four-person business group’s offensive was a complete success for Beijing’s official website, China.com. But both Hisense and VIVO are suspected of benefiting from the forced labor of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Whether the money is dirty or not doesn’t seem to matter to UEFA. The UEFA Europa League soccer championship is now a festival for sponsors. And the choice of who joins the sponsor team is entirely up to UEFA.

The soccer tournament is still about soccer,” warns the German commissioner of start-ups. But for some sponsors, such as those from China and Russia, strategic political considerations are likely to be more important.”