By: Denise M. Abbott July 24, 2014@ 06:00:00 AM
PUEBLO, Colo. – Next month the world’s premiere bull riding circuit, the Professional Bull Riders, Inc., will expand eastward, bringing the “toughest sport on dirt” to China.
For the last several years, more than 30 million households in China have watched highlights of the PBR’s elite Built Ford Tough Series on CCTV. Now PBR fans in Qingdao, Nanjing and Shanghai will have the opportunity to see “America’s fastest growing sport” (Forbes.com 2013) live at approximately 21 events taking place from August through October 2014. This series marks the first official PBR China tour in the sport’s history. China joins Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico as the newest international venture for the PBR.
“To say the PBR is excited about bringing bull riding to China is definitely an understatement,” said Jim Haworth, Chairman and CEO of the PBR. “The idea began taking shape in mid-2013 and fast-tracked into realization earlier this year. Despite the myriad challenges and obstacles to overcome, things seem to be falling into place for an August to September launch.”
James Wang, the CEO of Xinniu International Sports Culture Company, which is based in Beijing, approached PBR Australia about bringing the sport to China. Wang, who had lived in Houston, Texas and Seattle, Washington, and attended a few PBR Built Ford Tough Series events, had been familiar with the PBR for many years. Extended talks ensued with Haworth who, from 2005 to 2010, was the chairman of Chinese retail company Chia Tai Enterprises International Ltd. before taking the reins at the PBR.
In December 2013, Haworth and PBR Chief Global Events Officer Dave Cordovano met with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. After many presentations and visits to China and PBR events, a partnership was confirmed in March 2014 and the planning began. Haworth’s knowledge of business practices in China has been very valuable to the process.
“While they won’t be the easiest events we’ve ever produced,” Haworth said, “when the series kicks off, it will probably be the most highly-anticipated.”
“PBR’s arrival in China will be a historic moment. China will now have the opportunity to experience the authentic cowboy culture, and observe firsthand the brave and resilient spirit of the hardworking Americans.” Wang said. “We appreciate Jim Haworth and the entire PBR staff for their hard work and dedication while preparing for the upcoming tour. Our cooperation will stand testament to the idea that the American Dream and the Chinese Dream will not only co-exist, but also flourish under the spirit of understanding and cooperation.”
PBR China events will be part of the PBR Touring Pro Division, the sport’s minor league series which cultivates new talent and feeds its elite BFTS. Points earned at PBR China events will count toward qualification to the BFTS and ultimately the season-ending, $2.2 million PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals.
The inaugural PBR China series will award approximately $350,000 in prize money. For its debut, 30 PBR bull riders from the United States and the PBR’s other international offices will travel to China for the series, with 25 men competing at each event. The riders are eager to participate.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” said Matt Bohon, a fixture on the Built Ford Tough Series from 2004 until 2009 when an injury put him on the sidelines. “I never thought I could make a living riding bulls and, now I’m going to ride bulls in China. Competing on the PBR has given me opportunities I never dreamed of.”
The PBR expanded internationally in 2006 and established offices in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. Each region has operated very successful PBR Touring Pro Division series for the last nine years.
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