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Le Sports acquires AFC rights, seals stake in Lagardère’s Asia-focused business

Le Sports has acquired rights for Asian Football Confederation events in a deal that has given the Chinese internet company a 20-per-cent stake in the Lagardère Sports agency’s Asia-focused division.

The deal with Lagardère Sports, which markets the AFC’s rights, includes exclusive rights in China for 12 of the confederation’s properties over four years, from 2017 to 2020.

A Lagardère Sports spokesperson told TV Sports Markets that Le Sports has acquired 20 per cent of the shareholding of the agency’s Asia-focused operations, previously known as World Sport Group.

The Yutang Sports news website said the stake had been acquired for $75m (€68m) while the AFC rights had been snapped up for $110m, but the spokesperson could not confirm these figures.

In September, media conglomerate Lagardère Unlimited unified all its agencies under the single commercial brand name of Lagardère Sports and Entertainment, including World Sport Group, which had previously marketed the AFC’s rights.

The deal with the AFC includes production responsibilities for more than 1,000 matches, including qualifiers for the 2018 Fifa World Cup, the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup as well several men’s and women’s youth events at national team level and the AFC’s two major futsal events.

Le Sports outbid other broadcasters for the rights, according to Lagardère Sports.

Seamus O’Brien, the executive chairman of Lagardère Sports in Asia, said: “Digital media is increasingly becoming the preferred platform for fans to watch football and engage in real-time discussion and updates – we’re seeing this upward trend particularly in China where internet usage continues to grow at a breakneck pace. As a frontrunner in the digital media space, Le Sports is the perfect partner for AFC to bring Asian football to the next level.”