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China's Wanda plots rival to Champions League - report

Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Dalian Wanda Group in China, speaks before a dialogue session during the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, China, January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files
Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Dalian Wanda Group in China, speaks before a dialogue session during the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, China, January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - Asia's richest man Wang Jianlin, the owner of conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, is backing plans to launch a soccer tournament that will rival the European Champions League, the Financial Times reported.

The group was seeking support in England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany by promising more places in an enlarged tournament and higher revenues from broadcasting rights, Marco Bogarelli, the strategic director of Wanda Sports Holding, the Chinese group's sports arm, told the newspaper.

Bogarelli said talks had begun with Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A and that Wanda was planning to start discussions with England's Premier League, Germany's Bundesliga and France's Ligue 1 after the European championship which ends on Sunday.

Wanda said it was unable to comment on the report.

The group owns a 20 percent stake in Atletico Madrid, beaten finalists in the Champions League last season.

Currently, clubs from England, Germany and Spain are granted four spots in the Champions League, the continent's most prestigious club tournament, while teams from France, Italy and Portugal are allotted three places each.

Wanda's proposal would guarantee at least six places for each of the big five leagues.

Continental European clubs are reported to be keen on changes to the Champions League to secure a more reliable flow of revenue and to try to keep up with teams from the English Premier League which has the most lucrative TV deals.

A soccer investment boom in China has helped propel interest in the game in the most populous country in the world.

Chinese firms have invested in overseas clubs, player agencies and media rights firms, and global soccer stars have moved to China in multi-million dollar deals.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong,; editing by Keith Weir)

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