Inter Milan up for sale as Suning looks to escape soccer’s financial black hole

Society & Culture

Also in this week's China Sports Column: Mitt Romney calls for "economic" — not athletic — boycott of Beijing 2022.

Inter Milan vice president Javier Zanetti Suning Sports Group vice president Gong Lei in 2016, after Suning acquired Inter

When reigning Chinese Super League (CSL) champions Jiangsu FC folded on February 28, it sparked fears that Italian powerhouse Inter Milan — which is owned by Suning, the same company that owned Jiangsu FC — might be in financial trouble, too.

Those fears were recently confirmed, as Suning announced it was looking to sell Inter, which is the current leader of Italian Serie A.

According to the New York Times:

Inter Milan has held talks with at least one potential investor, but the parties couldn’t agree on a price, according to others with knowledge of the negotiations said.

Suning has been looking at a way out of the soccer world after a difficult financial year and following Chinese Football Association rule changes that banned corporate sponsorship from CSL club names.

Since Suning paid $306 million for a major stake in the Italian club in 2016, Inter has spent big on players and coaches. There were the arrivals of ex-Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku and ex-Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen, as well as current head coach Antonio Conte.

The increased spending has revived the club on the pitch, especially this season. Inter, under Conte’s leadership, look capable of denying rival Juventus the league title for the first time since 2011.

But with the club hemorrhaging money, especially during COVID, Suning has been forced to sell. The New York Times reports that Inter has been forced to defer the salaries of some of its players.

Suning’s plight reflects “the whole rise and fall of this era of Chinese football,” said Zhe Ji, the director of Red Lantern, a sports marketing company that works in China for top European soccer teams. “When people were talking about Chinese football and all the attention it got in 2016, it came very fast, but it’s gone very fast, too.”


Mitt Romney calls for “economic” boycott of Beijing 2022

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney authored an op-ed in the New York Times last week, calling for an economic and diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

But he stopped short of calling for athletes to boycott the games, reasoning that it would be counterproductive. “Prohibiting our athletes from competing in China is the easy, but wrong, answer,” he wrote. “Our athletes have trained their entire lives for this competition and have primed their abilities to peak in 2022.

“If an athlete boycott is meant to influence the behavior of the home country or delegitimize its government, it probably won’t work. When President Jimmy Carter applied an athlete boycott to the Moscow Olympics in 1980, the result was more medals for Russians and dashed dreams for American athletes.”

The op-ed follows comments made by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 ahead of the U.S.-China talks.

Responding to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s refusal to rule out a boycott of the Games, Zhao accused the international community of politicizing sports, and then highlighted the anti-boycott stance of most National Olympic Committees around the world.

“As I’ve made it clear while answering a question on the U.S.-Japan joint statement, it is the United States that has been practicing coercion and invasion in the world. ‘To strengthen the unity of the Olympic Movement, to protect its independence, to maintain and promote its political neutrality’, these are words enshrined in the Olympic Charter,” Zhao said.

“We have every confidence in hosting a simple, safe and splendid Olympic event.”


Other stories:

Former Beijing Duck Jeremy Lin interviewed by Anderson Cooper on anti-Asian racism (CNN)

David Owen: Why the coming trial by op-ed over China could hit the IOC where it hurts (Inside the Games)

Chinese national team prepares for World Cup qualifiers in Shanghai (China Daily)

‘Naming and shaming’ latest strategy by rights groups seeking boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics (SCMP)

Former national soccer captain jokes about China’s basketball performances (Global Times)

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.