BEIJING (AP) — The English Premier League will expand its training program for Chinese coaches and referees as part of cooperation measures announced Monday aimed at building the league's position in the vast Chinese market.
The move to expand the Premier Skills program with the aim of reaching more than 1.2 million Chinese students by 2016 was announced as Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Beijing on an official visit Monday.
"It's great to kick off this visit to China with such a tangible example of how we are strengthening ties between our peoples and creating business opportunities for British companies along the way," Cameron was quoted as saying in a Foreign Office statement.
Administered by the Premier League and the British Council, the Premier Skills program has already been active in China for five years. Other forms of cooperation include working on development and marketing with clubs in the top-flight China Super League, which had suffered from low attendance, poor marketing and widespread corruption among players, coaches and officials before finding its feet in recent years.
The Chinese league will also help promote the Premier League, which sees the Chinese market for its matches as having the best growth prospects in the world. The East Asian market is already worth around 200 million pounds ($328 million) a year to the Premier League.
The agreement to extend cooperation was signed by the Premier League, British Council and Chinese Ministry of Education at an event in Beijing with British Culture Secretary Maria Miller and former England and Chelsea footballer Graeme Le Saux.
"British football is renowned all over the world from our clubs to our fans, our players to our history," Miller was quoted as saying in the statement. "It is wonderful that the British Council and Premier League's Premier Skills program takes the UK's football expertise and uses it to create opportunities for young people across the globe, not least in China."