Birmingham bonanza: Yeung promises to splash out 80m on transfers
New Birmingham owner Carson Yeung was applauded into St Andrew's - and immediately revealed his intention to join the league of big-spenders. The Hong Kong-based multimillionaire pledged £40million for strengthening Alex McLeish's squad during the January transfer window - and the same again next summer. After being cheered into the stadium by his staff, Yeung admitted that he wants to throw the weight of the Chinese populace behind his purchase, hoping that the Premier League will grow as popular as the NBA has in the Far East. Basketball has mushroomed into an enterprise worth £1.5bn in its new market and, although several top-flight football clubs already have a foothold in the area, Yeung is banking upon Birmingham picking up significant support as the first Chinese-owned franchise. A few comments were lost in translation. Yeung was asked whether manager McLeish's position was safe and replied: 'Not at all,' believing he had been asked if the manager was under pressure. He also held up the royal blue shirt the wrong way up and then he and fellow board member Vico Hui displayed the shirt numbers one and eight in that order instead of eight and one which reflected their investment in millions of pounds. However, there was no denying his intention as he made his first public appearance after buying the club from David Sullivan and the Gold brothers for £81.5m, having first acquired a shareholding two years ago. 'It has taken a long time to buy the club,' he said. 'But finally I've got it. And I'm so happy. We are all a big family now. We want to stay in the Premier League this season. We will invest between £20-£40m in the transfer window. If we want stronger and better players, we will look to invest more than £40m in the summer. 'We want to make Birmingham the favourite team of the Chinese people. We will be as popular as Chelsea and Manchester United. It will help that the club has Chinese owners. 'We can take the Premier League to China. As for players, I'd like some new popular stars. Let the fans know that the good players are coming. I won't let them down.' Hui then explained the concept. Basketball has taken off in China due to Yao Ming, the 7ft 6in Houston Rockets star. 'The long-term objective is that we will make money,' said Hui. 'In the shortterm, you need contributions to do this. But we shall use that profit to re-invest. It's a cycle. 'We have a lot of opportunity to bring the Premier League concept to China. It's like the NBA. Take Yao Ming, before he took off, I don't think a lot of people were watching the NBA. But then after he was involved, the market developed very, very quickly. There is a model.' Yeung has passed the 'fit and proper person' test set down by the authorities and, even though there appear to be questions to be asked about the source of the finance, another board member Peter Pannu, attempted to calm those fears that Birmingham may be subjected to a meltdown similar to the one that has affected Portsmouth. He said: 'Carson is the owner of not only one listed company. The money is his. The exposure of the club will give us a platform to source huge financial markets in China.' Manager Alex McLeish added: 'The long-term vision is to use Everton as a model and get to that footing in the Premier League. 'It's very difficult to go from there. Everton did get into the top four a few seasons ago, but first things first. We have to be in the Premier League next season. 'It would be stupid to talk about a revolution. Just because I've got a few bob to spend, I won't go mental. I want to change the infrastructure here. I've been fire-fighting from the very first day and I'm still a bit like that at the moment. 'There's a lot of things I want to do but I don't want to bombard the owners. Karren Brady said last week I was the most ambitious manager she had worked with. That was a great compliment. That ambition hasn't changed.'
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