Lai speaks to fans for the first time
Firstly, let me say how much of an honour it will be to become the new owner of this wonderful club. I have been following West Bromwich Albion for many years now, having first become aware of the Club through contacts who participated in the historic tour of China in 1978, when I was still a child.
I am a lifelong football fan and my hometown is often referred to as the hometown of football in China. My passion for the game is one motivation for the acquisition. But there is more to it than that. From a business stand-point, the club is a great investment: it is financially sound and has a strong management team. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to capitalize on these strengths and continue its growth and focus on league performance.
We are also entering a golden age for football in China. China has a massive football fan base, which has only been growing in the past years. There is also a real commitment, strongly supported by the government, to develop football and its culture in China, and I am convinced that this transaction will serve to reinforce the love of football, while bringing West Bromwich Albion millions of new dedicated fans. It will also have a huge appeal for youth football, as this is a great opportunity to bring West Bromwich Albion’s excellent training system to China to help nurture young talent. One of the commitments of my partner in this investment, Palm, is to embed world-class football facilities into all of the new towns it is building across China. Clearly the West Bromwich Albion brand would be linked to those exciting developments.
I will inherit a club in a very strong position; we are about to embark on our seventh successive Premier League season, we are debt-free and have a track record of consistent improvement both on and off the pitch. In addition, we have first-class training facilities and a hugely admired Category 1 youth development programme. This was all achieved thanks to the tireless commitment of Jeremy, who I am also extremely pleased to say has agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity to assist with the transition to new ownership during the 2016/17 Season.
I am also delighted that John Williams has agreed to be our new Chairman. His knowledge of the game will be extremely important as we continue to move forward. With the new season nearly upon us, I would like to impress upon all of you gathered here and to all of our passionate fans that I have no wish to change the Club’s ethos or embark on an unsustainable spending spree. I want to be a good owner and to invest in this Club for the long-term. First and foremost, our goal is to ensure that we remain in the English Premier League and then beyond that, I would like to see the club establish itself in the top half of the division. The Premier League is famous for its excitement, entertainment, quality and drama. I believe it is the best league in the world and I want to take this club as far as possible. My intention is to maintain the current ethos in terms of day-to-day management and approach to the team and to supplement this with the great opportunities that China provides. My plan is to add to, rather than radically change the workings of the Club.
As of now, all of us are focused on the transfer window and the upcoming season. Our pre-season preparations are progressing and I believe that we have a competitive team, with the right management and coaching staff in place.
Finally, I would like to re-iterate just how proud I am to have the chance to become the new owner of this Club and I believe that we have an extremely bright future ahead of us. I look forward to attending my first home game and to meeting the fans, the heart and soul of West Bromwich Albion.