EXCLUSIVE: Inter’s global expansion plan

July 20, 2016

Europe’s top football clubs have long battled on-the-pitch for dominance, but off-the-pitch a global battle is being fought to establish the club’s as global brands.

Inter have been at the forefront of that for the last two years –  since they were bought by Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir they have expanded their Asian operation, and now they have just been taken over by Suning Sports – their influence in the region is expected to further rise.

Richard Lamb is the International Business Director at Inter and outlined how the club have accelerated their overseas growth in recent years:

“Since Erick bought the club two years ago there have been a lot of changes internationally. We have set up an office in Jakarta, as our Asia HQ. We also set up an office in Washington D.C as our Americas HQ. There has been a lot of drive into developing the markets we have internationally.”


But the purchase by the Suning Sports group is a huge step to opening up the Asian market. Many expect China to become a huge football market in the next 10 to 20 years – and Lamb admitted the change of ownership is a game changer.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us.” He said. “I think China is a huge opportunity for many European football clubs, and China’s largest retailer is now the owner of the club. That opens a lot of doors in China, not only from a business perspective, but also it helps us to develop a Chinese narrative, it helps us get closer to the fans, and it helps us get much more access to political bodies, but also to businesses in Asia as well”

“We’re opening up a number of academies in China, at the moment we already have three. One in Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing. Over the course of the next few months and years, we are looking establish more academies in China. They are more grassroots and we work closely with schools and educational departments within the government. In addition to that, we are planning to establish an elite academy in Nanjing, which will be in co-ordination with Suning. We’re also looking at a lot of activities where we are looking to get closer to our fans. Fan events, fan viewing parties. Unfortunately, we can’t take the San Siro to China, but we can do the next best thing, by arranging legend matches across the country, get our players touring there, and to give our fans the opportunities to get closer to the club.”


Inter, better than most, have a narrative and a brand that suits their expansion into new territories. Lamb explained how the very name of the club fosters fans from the wider footballing world:

“I think we are very fortunate at Inter that we have a very strong story. Inter was formed 108 years ago on the basis of, and it’s still our mantra today, ‘brothers of the world’. It is the reason why we are called F.C. Internazionale …Throughout our history, we’ve always been a club that has embraced internationalism, a club that has embraced different cultures and different backgrounds.”

But while operations in China will be ramped up following the investment – Inter still have other key markets they will look to provide growth as well, which Lamb outlined:

“Indonesia is big. Mr. Thohir still owns 30% of the club, so Indonesia is still a key focus for us. We have players from all over the world. Yuto Nagatomo for instance, so Japan is a key market for us. We’re also looking at India very closely as well. We’re confident that football in India is going to grow very rapidly over the next few years as well. Outside of Asia, South America is very close to Inter. A lot of our players now, and historically, have come from South America. Our Vice-President and our spiritual captain Javier Zanetti, of course – he is one of the most famous Argentine players ever. In addition to that, North America presents us with a lot of opportunities. Football has really come along in the last 20 years in the US, the success of the Copa America shows it’s a hugely popular sport in North America.”

Inter, and other major European football clubs have already become huge global brands. The battle in the emerging markets of China and India are likely to dominate club’s agendas over the next decade. Inter, thanks to their fast-growing international strategy, and unique link into China, could well be at the forefront of that land grab.

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