The Sweeper: Premier League looks to cash in on Asia

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Big Story
“Premier League looks to cash in on Asia” is the headline on another of those BBC news articles we seem to read several times a season about how Premier League teams “hope” to turn the apparent fervid support of Asian fans into many millions of pounds. This particular piece is about Singapore, and a schism over a paid TV deal that may turn off supporters, with a warning that they risk turning away “fans who are being asked to pay ever-higher prices to follow teams which play thousands of miles away.”

The same thing of course occurred in China just a couple of years ago, when the Premier League moved to pay tv and discovered their “product” wasn’t so unique that most wouldn’t be content to just watch the Italian or Spanish league, or the NBA, on free-to-air television instead. The Premier League had to intervene and put some games back on free tv.

So the hopes to cash in have yet to realise the road to riches promised. But what isn’t asked in this piece is whether the Premier League’s efforts benefits Asian football overall.

Lucrative pre-season tours take place each year, of course, rotating around whichever part of Asia is deemed to be the hottest forthcoming property.¬†Premier League teams sometimes even say their visits are not about money, but about “developing the game”. Some teams do have charitable efforts and academies in various parts of Asia, to be sure.

So is it true that the Premier League’s expansion in Asia a crucial contribution to the sport’s development there, as Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore has said? Is this the twenty-first century equivalent of British sailors, soldiers and industrialists bringing the sport to new ports in the late nineteenth century, and sowing the seeds for the game’s explosion in South America? Or are they merely sucking out money from the sport’s domestic development in Asia itself, which already has, after all, its own Champions League?

Worldwide News

  • Roberto Mancini has in the matter of a week or so managed to put the furor over Mark Hughes’ firing firmly outside the goldfish bowl memory of the English soccer media, as two wins in a row has the “the king is gone; long live the king” mantra going, with his ability to tie a scarf in a charming fashion having him hailed as Britain’s “best-dressed manager” already (is there really much competition?).
  • Debate over whether MLS teams should be adding a second designated player above the salary cap is hotting up; Steve Davis has a balanced column on the debate, though once again when assessing the financial impact, there is too much focus on attendance and too little on the associated sponsorship income and media exposure and credibility certain players bring.
  • How are FC United of Manchester attempting to ensure their game on New Year’s Day goes ahead? As is typical of the community club, they are asking supporters “to come to Gigg Lane on Wednesday at 10am armed to the hilt with shovels, spades, brushes, and anything else that would help clear the snow and ice at the ground.” Now that’s support.
  • Headline of the day? The Sun, with Benitez has to try Arda.

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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