Charlton launch Chinese youth academy

English Premier League club, Charlton, has joined forces with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Zobon and signed a five-year agreement to establish the Zobon Charlton Football Academy in Shanghai.

"We are today joining an elite group of European clubs, such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United, who are seeking the enormous player, commercial and branding opportunities that can be secured from a presence in China - a country which has one of the most rapidly developing economies in the world and where there is enormous interest in the top European leagues,” Charlton chief executive Peter Varney said.

"This is a key element of the international development strategy for our football club going forward, and comes on the back of last week's launch of an overseas club channel."

Charlton Athletic TV (CATV) will next season be transmitted to millions of viewers around the world. The Addicks became the first Premiership club outside the established top four to market the rights to their league matches to international broadcasters, with a three-hour programme due to be shown on a time-delay basis in west Africa and the Middle East. Ukraine, Scandinavia, Australasia and the Far East are also being explored for potential future expansion, the club website explained.

Mr Varney was one of a number of Addicks officials who travelled to China for the launch, including plc deputy chairman Robert Whitehand, academy manager Steve Gritt and Steve Waggott, chief executive of the Charlton Community Trust.

Under the agreement, which takes immediate effect until June 2010, the Zobon Charlton Football Academy will be built by the Zobon Corporation at Fengcheng Base, Pudong, Shanghai. It will cover a total area of 202,000 sq metres.

The academy will be run along the lines of a Premier League academy, with Charlton enjoying one of the best reputations in England for producing and nurturing young talent - England internationals Scott Parker, Paul Konchesky, Lee Bowyer and Robert Lee just some of the players to emerge through the club's ranks.

The technical director of the academy will be jointly appointed by Zobon and Charlton, as will the coaching staff.

Over the last few years Charlton have taken a number of steps to increase the global awareness of the club and have set up youth and community initiative links in countries such as New Zealand, Spain, Finland, Gibraltar and the United States.

Varney added: "We may not currently be able to compete on the international stage with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool but the steps we are taking today, coupled with the initiatives already underway in a number of other overseas countries, have started us on a long journey from which the benefits will hopefully be realised in the years to come.

"I must thank the Zobon Corporation for the considerable financial investment they have made both to the construction of the new academy and the financing of its day-to-day running costs, while the agreement would not have been possible without the commitment of Zobon chairman Wei Ping and president Gao Liping.

Having been promoted to the Chinese Super League for the first time at the end of last season, Shanghai Zobon, who are one of three Shanghai-based clubs, play their home matches at the Yuanshen Sports Centre Stadium, and are currently 11th in the 14-team league after 15 matches.

Owned by Shanghai Zhongbang Real Estate Co, which bought out Zhuhai Anping in January 2004 and relocated from the southern coast of Guangdong Province to Shanghai after gaining promotion in November 2004, Shanghai Zobon's main sponsors include China Telecom, Mercedes-Benz and Mizuno.