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Premiership clubs continue their Asian assault

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Alex Wolstenholme

Alex Wolstenholme is an exiled Sky Blues season ticket holder currently living in Sheffield...
[full biography]
25/05/2007 08:00:00.
read: 1043 times.

The popularity of the English game in Asia and the increasing importance of the Far East to the finances of Premiership clubs shows no signs of abating as a quartet of teams prepare for pre-season tours to the region.

Manchester United will play games in Japan, Macau and South Korea although a fourth fixture in Malaysia has been scrapped (although it may yet be back on with a different date) as it clashes with the Asian Cup tournament (the equivalent of the European Championships) being jointly hosted by the Malaysians.

Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam said of the planned tour: "It is disrespectful to us and shows no solidarity within the football world.

"Asia is giving them (United) so much money during the Premier League season, but this one month every four years they cannot afford to play?

"'Cancel your tour'. That is the message from all the teams, coaches and players in Asia."

Not from the fans though, many of whom reacted angrily to the news that United may not play in Malaysia.

Liverpool too are on their travels as they take part in the Barclays-sponsored Asia Trophy in Hong Kong alongside Fulham and Portsmouth while Reading will look to emulate Tottenham and win the Peace Cup trophy in South Korea.

Tottenham are strengthening their links in the Far East by adding Mandarin script next to the logo of the shirt sponsors on their away and third kits next season while Fulham are reportedly negotiating a sponsorship deal with Korean firm LG that will see at least one player from that country at Craven Cottage.

Indeed the club's proposed signing of Lee-Chun soo on loan is thought to be connected with this deal, something the player has denied.

Everton and Sheffield United have also both had Chinese companies as their shirt sponsors in recent seasons and a number of clubs either have or are in the process of having their official club websites tailored to different countries and languages.

Although Manchester United and Liverpool lead the way in terms of popularity overseas, the money coming in from Asia is now forming a significant part of the revenue received by all Premiership clubs.

The latest deal for overseas television rights to Premiership action is worth £625m, nearly double the previous deal and around a quarter of the league's total revenue from media rights for the next three seasons.

The majority of the money for the new deal has come from the Middle East and Asia and therefore the sponsors and fans in those countries need to be kept onside. What was perhaps a one-way relationship before whereby the clubs sat back and counted the cash is now progressing much more towards a give and take relationship.

That will mean more pre-season trips abroad in future whether or not these really are the best way to prepare for a new season and potentially more and more new signings from countries such as Japan, China and South Korea as clubs see the spin-off benefits that come from having the likes of Seol Ki-Hyeon or Sun Jihai on your books.

Although Reading snapped up Seol for footballing reasons only, his presence in the Royals' squad has had a big influence on their being invited to the Peace Cup tournament.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to date is that amid the rash of foreign takeovers of English clubs none have fallen into the hands of Asian businessmen or consortia although that could change shortly.

Former Thai prime minister Thakshin Shinawatra was linked with Liverpool and is now interested in Manchester City with a formal bid likely to be made shortly.

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Haven't read the article but the fact the banner headline reads 'Premiership clubs continue their Asian ass...' tickled me!


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