Arsenal launch Chinese-language website

One of the world's biggest football clubs came to the world's fastest growing major economy on Tuesday when Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman launched a Chinese language Web site (arsenal.tom.com).

The Gunners announced a turnover of £200.8m last month to put it in the top echelon of revenue earners in football and Edelman said he hoped millions of Chinese fans would one day contribute to those earnings.

"We're a club that looks to the future," he told the launch ceremony.

"We see China as a very, very important market. We want to be part of China and let them see the things we do and the wonderful football in England.

"This all part of developing our brand and our fan base and clearly in the long-run we're here to make revenues, to improve football and to develop clubs in other parts of the world," he added.

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Edelman said Arsenal would not follow the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid by bringing their players on a tour of China but other more grassroots activities were planned.

"Our team does not travel to the Far East in the close season and we don't have plans to do that at present," he said.

"We have joint ventures in Thailand and Vietnam where we help develop young players. This is a precursor to that kind of activity."

Edelman said he hoped the Web site would help rapidly increase the number of fans of the North London club among the 1.3 billion Chinese.

"We known there are 50 million people that support Arsenal and we believe about four million will sit in China," he said.

"So with these new ventures we should be more than doubling that over the next 12 to 24 months."

Arsenal are just the latest in a string of English clubs who have embarked on projects in China over the last few years including Chelsea, Manchester United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United.

Few, if any, have been able to show any real returns yet.

"I don't think we're in a hurry to get a return from China but there are ways that we can deliver benefits to China and benefit ourselves," Ford added.

"We're in for the long-haul..."

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