A Chinese real estate tycoon is to pump $77 million into football in China to invigorate the sport following a series of dismal results for the national team and a damaging graft scandal.
Under a three-year deal signed Sunday, Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda real estate company, agreed to hand over 500 million yuan to the Chinese Football Association (CFA) to fund youth programmes, referee training and foreign coaching, the China Daily said.
The programme aims to provide high-quality training for up to 100 youngsters per year and give them the opportunity to play overseas, the report said.
The agreement comes after China's Olympic Team last month crashed out of qualifying for the London 2012 Games, losing to lowly Oman 4-1 on aggregate.
"The progress of Chinese soccer depends on the emergence of high-level young players," the China Daily quoted CFA head Wei Di as saying.
"China's negligence in developing teenage soccer directly led to the slump in the sport in recent years."
Wang said he hoped to increase the number of youth players in China to more than 700,000, while also boosting attendances at professional league games.
"If we make these changes in three years, then we can talk about further cooperation, but if there's no change, I think we will be done," he said.
Wang once bankrolled the professional club Dalian Wanda -- which won four league championships in the 1990s -- but pulled out of the league in 1998 amid widespread accusations of graft and match-fixing.
Two former heads of China's football association and numerous lower level officials are currently under arrest and awaiting trials on corruption charges.