Real Madrid's quest for profits in China

When Real Madrid made their first trip to China two years ago, organizers paid them a match fee of about 2 million euros, according to unconfirmed reports in Chinese media, with add-ons for training and publicity events. A spokesman for the Gao De company, the main Chinese organizers, said the fee for Real's match against Beijing Guo'an on Saturday was a "business secret". But the fees paid to Real would be "higher than last time", he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa by telephone.

"I admit this is a business activity," sports journals quoted Guo'an vice president Luo Ning saying. "Because the market has such a demand, and our team needs the opportunity to improve and learn, we have the matches with Real Madrid and Manchester United," Luo said.

This week's issue of the Kingsports football journal carries an advertisement for eight different sports shirts in an Adidas "Beckham series", at prices from 150 yuan (18 dollars) to 288 yuan (35 dollars), almost 10 times the cost of an ordinary sports T-shirt in China. Beckham and other players are booked to appear at several Adidas promotions in Beijing this week.

Real players are also scheduled to visit a new luxury commercial housing development that has a road named "Real Madrid Avenue". The two characters for the club's Chinese name also mean "imperial horses".

Ticket prices range from 180 yuan (22 dollars) to 5,000 yuan (608 dollars) for Saturday's game, which Beckham may be forced to sit out with a hamstring injury. More than half of the 60,000 tickets were sold before Real's arrival in China, organizers said.

During their first trip to China in 2003, Real's marketing manager Jose Angel Sanchez was quoted as saying the club aimed to earn 40 million dollars - about the same as Beckham's transfer fee - from Asian marketing by 2006.

Argentinian sports investment company Mascardi, which owns some marketing rights to the Real Madrid brand, is also negotiating to buy a stake worth at least 100 million yuan (12 million dollars) in Guo'an, state media said. Speaking in Beijing in March, Mascardi head Gustavo Mascardi said he planned to make Guo'an the top team in Asia within three years, the Titan Sports newspaper said.

After Beijing, Real are scheduled to play two matches in Japan and one in Bangkok before they return to Madrid on July 30 -