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Saints seize China opportunity

St Kilda Football Club will replace the Gold Coast Suns in Shanghai after striking a three-year agreement with Port Adelaide FC, the AFL and the Victorian Government.
The backing of our players and coaches, the ability to invest immediately into our football program and the potential for short, medium and long-term commercial growth makes playing in China a very attractive proposition
St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis

The St Kilda Football Club will replace the Gold Coast Suns in Shanghai after striking a three-year agreement with Port Adelaide FC, the AFL and the Victorian Government.

The lucrative deal will see the Saints pass on the rights to a home game to Port Adelaide, with that match to be played on Sunday, 2 June in Shanghai.

A unique business investment and trade partnership with the Victorian Government will see the club supported with expertise to capitalise on the opportunity, while in turn helping promote trade and tourism to Chinese audiences.

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St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis said it was a landmark opportunity for the club.

“When you combine the partnerships we have negotiated with Port Adelaide and the Victorian Government, the benefits of playing in China were overwhelming,” Finnis said.

“This is an opportunity that will significantly strengthen the club on so many levels.

“We have worked through a thorough process with Port, the AFL and the Victorian Government over many months and are now just incredibly excited by what the future holds.

“The backing of our players and coaches, the ability to invest immediately into our football program and the potential for short, medium and long-term commercial growth makes playing in China a very attractive proposition.

“But the game itself is really just a catalyst to a broader engagement program, which will benefit the club, our partners and the Victorian economy.”

As part of the arrangement, St Kilda members will still have access to 11 games at Marvel Stadium through a deal with another tenant club, while the Saints will work with the AFL to minimise the impact of the extra travel requirements associated with China.

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Finnis said the agreement with the Victorian Government would see St Kilda support initiatives to grow local trade partnerships into China as well as investment into the Victorian economy from Chinese businesses.

“We fully support the Victorian Government’s vision of Victoria becoming China’s gateway to Australia, based on the strength of connections and a deep understanding of each other’s people and culture,” he said.

Finnis confirmed the three-year commitment to play in China would see the Saints step away from exploring the possibility of playing a premiership match in Auckland.

The Saints played three games in Wellington from 2013-2015 before redirecting their focus to the country’s biggest city – Auckland.

“We are proud to have been the first club to take a regular season match abroad, but the reality is that if New Zealand is to work, then a suitable venue in Auckland is required,” Finnis said. 

“Despite ongoing dialogue over the past two years, it’s apparent that a home for AFL matches in Auckland is still some years away, but we will continue to support their plans in conjunction with the League.”