Asia's football body has signed a major commercial rights deal with sports marketing agency DDMC Fortis aimed at securing the financial future of the game in the region for the coming years.
The deal gives the agency, a joint venture between Chinese and Swiss groups, exclusive rights from 2021 to 2028 starting with the final qualifying round of the 2022 World Cup, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said in a statement.
The AFC did not say how much the agreement was worth but reports put it at $3.4 billion, a huge boost for the rapidly growing football scene in Asia.
"This is a most significant day in the history of the AFC," the body's president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said as the deal was signed Monday in Kuala Lumpur, where the AFC is based.
"With the signing of this contract, the AFC can guarantee its member associations that the game in Asia has tremendously solid financial foundations from which to build."
DDMC Fortis CEO, Patrick Murphy, said that the group "strongly feel that, in cooperation with the AFC, we are in a position to transform the way Asian football is organised, enjoyed and commercialised across Asia".
DDMC Fortis is a joint venture between Swiss group Fortis Sports and China's DDMC Sports International. The new deal signals an end to a long-running commercial partnership between the AFC and Lagardere Sports and Entertainment.
The announcement came ahead of an AFC congress Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, in which Sheikh Salman will be seeking support for a re-election bid next year.
The Bahraini royal first took the reins in 2013 when the AFC was still reeling from a corruption scandal which saw his predecessor, Mohamed bin Hammam, banned from football for life.
At the AFC Congress next April, Sheikh Salman could face a challenge from Saudi Arabia's Adel Ezzat, head of a new regional bloc, the South West Asian Football Federation.
Delegates arriving ahead of this week's meeting voiced support for the Bahraini. Anura De Silva, president of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka, said that Sheikh Salman's position looked solid.
"Sponsorship is booming under his leadership," he told AFP. "The increase in sponsorship reflects his credibility and he is transparent in his job."
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