The World Football Forum 2017 opens in Changsha

The World Football Forum, a high profile international conference focusing on the multi-billion dollar business of football, opened in Changsha International Convention and Exhibition Centre today, with speeches by Zhang Jian, First Vice President & General Secretary of Chinese Football Association, Xiang Lili, Executive Vice Governor of Hunan Province, Li Shun, Director of Hunan Sports Bureau and Li Ping, Director, Changsha Sports Bureau.

The event in 2017 is the first ever edition to take place outside of Europe, and brings the global football industry to the heart of football’s ‘new geography’ - to one of the sport’s most exciting and fast-growing new markets – China.

Leading international business experts attended a numerous number of plenary sessions on a wide range of topics. Dr. Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, Founder of Association of European Professional Football Leagues presented his view on the future of world football. Mike Wragg, Head of Research of Nielsen Sports spoke about China as the epicentre of the new geography of football. Dr. Tony Xia, Owner & Chairman of Aston Villa FC discussed three dimensions in the new geography of the football: culture, capital and technologies.

The day also included a panel discussion on the topic of grassroots development and educating China’s kids which was attended by David Lopez, Managing Director of Asia, Soxna/ Evergrande Academy Guangzhou and Mehrdad Sadraei, Leader of Junior Football Leagues at Mission Hills. Forum Director Edward Cowell moderated the session.

Another session was dedicated to the new rules of engagement: connecting with a new generation of fans. Social media has allowed football clubs and players to reach their fanbase more directly than ever before, but effective fan engagement is dependent on staying ahead of social media trends. Speakers were Suzanne Case, Head of Digital of Asian Football Confederation and Romuald Nguyen, Managing Director China of Federation Francaise de Football.

Experts also discussed coaching programmes, academies, football schools – a huge growth industry in China and made a close up look at esport as the world’s biggest new spectator sport.

The business day ended with a no-holds-barred one on one conversation between Aston Villa owner Tony Xia and iSportconnect Chairman Michael Cunnah in the latest of our series of WFF editions of the exclusive iSportconnect Directors' Club -gathering sports executives together for insights from key decision makers.

The first day closed with the WFF Gala Reception and Dinner at 5-star Wanda Vista Changsha.

Edward Cowell, WFF Director, said: “ The results of the Forum’s first day confirmed the demand for international dialogue - and especially with China. Participants appreciated the attendance of high-profile speakers and the Forum’s framework was conducive to the kind of informal but high level networking which really works"

Stay posted for news from Day 2 tomorrow!