Premier League a big draw in Hong Kong
Fans cheer for their team during the match between Tottenham and South China at Hong Kong Stadium recently
Football managers had their hearts in their mouths watching their multi-million-euro charges slip and slide dangerously in appalling conditions in rain-sodden Hong Kong during pre-season friendlies in the territory in the past few days.
While the Hong Kong Stadium failed to sell out for the British and Irish Lions’ matches played here a couple of weeks ago, organisers had no such problems filling the arena for the arrival of top English Premier League clubs.
Manchester’s two biggest clubs, Man City and United, as well as Sunderland and Spurs came to the territory for various pre-season matches, but the appalling state of the pitch saw Spurs lose defender Jan Vertonghen and Man City lose Matija Nastasic to an ankle injury.
So poor was the state of the pitch, that United cancelled a public training session, and one City game was restricted to two 40-minute halves.
Despite ratcheting up managerial stress levels, the financial planners for the clubs were very happy with the tour.
City, Spurs and Sunderland played two games each in four days in the Premier League’s Barclays Asia Trophy, with each team trousering £1.2 million (€1.38 million) for appearing in the exhibition tournament, according to The Daily Telegraph.
High-profile pre-season tours to various Asian nations by these four clubs, as well as Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, shows just how lucrative the market in Asia is becoming to the Premier League bosses as a broadcasting and marketing entity.
Intriguingly, no one went to mainland China this year. A number of clubs visited last year, including Arsenal and Manchester City, so they were unlikely to go two years in a row.
But the China market remains difficult to crack. Widespread piracy means the replica shirt business, for example, struggles to prevail. And also, the Premier League has failed to strike a big broadcasting deal to have games shown on China’s all-powerful state broadcaster CCTV.
The Chinese love their football, but the National Basketball Association (NBA) still has the upper hand in terms of team sports marketing in China.