Thursday, 10 November 2011

Profitable Plots Update

We reported on the unsavoury link between Liverpool, Steve McMahon and the disgraced investment company Profitable Plots at the start of September (read the full 1,500 word essay HERE). The latest court hearing was on November 8th, and the Commercial Affairs Department again asked for further time as they continue to sift through thousands of documents and collect evidence. District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt duly granted investigators a further four months. The next hearing for an investigation which has been going since August last year will be on March 8th. The judge isn't likely to grant any more time extensions and CAD investigators are confident that they will have everything wrapped up by the next hearing.
Steve McMahon and Liverpool may want to consign their alliance with Profitable Plots to the waste bin of history, but we won't forget about this case and will return to this story in March.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ian Ayre Loses the Battle...

Liverpool's Managing Director Ian Ayre stepped over the line of what the great and the good of the British football media consider acceptable when he recently suggested that Liverpool should be able to pull out of the Premier League's collective bargaining TV arrangement and be able to independently negotiate their own TV deal as Barcelona and Real Madrid do.

  Our business isn't to dissect Ayre's pretty flimsy argument – everyone from the
Daily Mail to The Guardian has done that already. Instead, we want to consider how an end to collective bargaining would affect the influence of Premier League clubs in Asia.

  It would be erroneous to say that Ian Ayre is wrong. Ian Ayre's suggestion is absolutely right from the point-of-view of Ian Ayre and Liverpool FC as a business. He's not a player nor a coach, and nor is he a fan – by any reasonable definition of the word. He is the Managing Director and is tasked with ensuring that Liverpool are as successful off the pitch as possible. Something that seems to have come as a shock to some people: one fan lamented Liverpool's stance thus "I've always regarded Liverpool as our premier "Football Club" i.e. a club interested in football rather than business, unlike say, Manchester United, which is the other way round. So when, for instance, Manchester United say they've won 19 titles, I've always thought that well, when football was still a sport, pre-Premier League, Liverpool won 18 to United's 8, but when football became total business oriented with the Premier League, United have won 11 to Liverpool's nil. Good luck to them, that's the way of the money-obsessed Premier League and football is no longer a sport. It's pure business. So it's with great sadness to discover that my belief's are mistaken. Liverpool, under their current ownership, are no more than a United wannabee and like so many others, are no longer a "football club", interested in football and football supporters, but a greedy, grasping business wanting to milk supporters of all their money to make as much as possible for the club's greedy owners."  This, of course, will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog who will already be aware of Liverpool's avarice on a global scale. Indeed, Ayre's plan seems to be another step on the road towards the Emerald City of many of Europe's big clubs: a breakaway European Super League.

  But should we be bothered? I mean, if Ayre wants to play Frankenstein's Monster (now you understand the picture!) and destroy the very thing – collective bargaining – that made the Premier League and its clubs so wealthy in the first place then why should we care? A weakened, divided, imploding Premier League would be a sight to warm the heart.

  But, of course, as much as the Premier League as a whole would be weakened, Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aresnal and Man City would be strengthened. And the richer these clubs become, the more they can extend their operations in Asia. That would go for Liverpool more than most. Chelsea and Man City aren't so active in Asia as they don't have traditional supporter bases here, and, having billionaire owners, commercial exploitation of the Asian market isn't a necessity; but for Liverpool it's just that. A large operation in Asia is critical to Liverpool, their bank balance and their future plans. Ayre, who has business experience in Malaysia and was formerly Liverpool's commercial director, knows that the ability to crack the Asian market in as many countries as possible can bring the club a level of wealth to put them on a footing with the richest clubs in the world; no mean feat for a club which has never won the Premier League. A bigger bank balance means more opportunities for the club to expand its interests in Asia: more megastores, restaurants, bars, soccer schools and TV coverage.

  As entertaining as it was to see him getting torn apart by the media, we've seen enough of Ian Ayre in the past to know that he's very good at what he does, and, for as long as he remains in his post, is one of the biggest enemies of Asian football out there.


Friday, 4 November 2011

Coming Soon!

This blog has been very quiet of late for a variety of reasons; however, the campaign gets back on track this month with articles on Ian Ayre et al and their plans to pull the big EPL clubs out of collective bargaining; the latest from the Profitable Plots case in Singapore and the lowdown on the the EPL clubs' latest Asian target: India. All articles coming this month.

Remember, we're also on Facebook and – to a much lesser extent! – on Twitter

Friday, 23 September 2011

SMFA Update: Costs

At the end of August, we reported on the launch of the controversial Steve McMahon Football Academy. In the article we quoted a fee of $1000 per child per year as reported in this newspaper article. Well, after an unexplained delay, the Academy finally opened for registration this week and the costs were revealed in all their inglory.

As expected, the fee is Rs 45,000 per child. So if a child enrolls at the youngest age possible (6) and stays for the full ten years, the cost will be Rs 450,000 ($9,145). But the annual fee is only 45,000 if you pay in one lump. You also have the option of splitting the annual payment into three amounts: 10,000/25,000/15,000. Do the maths and that's 50,000 ($1016) per year or 500,000 ($10,160) for the full ten years.

There is one final option: monthly payments of Rs 6,000. Yes, that's Rs 720,000 for the full ten years or $14,620. The average gross annual income per person in India is $441.

All of which could still arguably be a small price to pay if these kids make it as big-time professional footballers. But, realistically, what are the chances of that? Almost all of the players you see on your TV screens playing in the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and so on, will have served their apprenticeships with professional clubs; not in a private school in an industrial zone somewhere outside Delhi. Furthermore, because of the prices, the Academy will only get to see the skills of kids from the top five percent of Indian society.

None of which would be a problem if there were scholarships, a staple of any self-respecting football school. Alas, no. There are no scholarship places and no plans to add any.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

View from a Singaporean (ex-)Liverpool Fan

I think if we could get the following passage translated into Thai, Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic and Japanese, and read by EPL fans all over Asia, then our work would be done! The following are selected extracts from the Hougang United fans' blog. The full article-cum-speech in all its glory is HERE.

I've always been a Liverpool fan since I was a teenager but these recent years I have started questioning my soccer faith for a football club almost half way round the world.

I have no idea what England is like or what Liverpool as a city is. No clue about the lives of the English fans other than the 11 players who grace my TV screen every weekend. Although I was proud of a club with long history, I have no connection or relation to that place. I have no club identity, no club to call my own.

We have no football club to call our own.

We were just chasing someone else's glory.

Frankie from the KallangRoar forum sums up the same sentiments saying:

"To me, the so-called fans who just watch European football are not real football fans, but people who eat in front their sofa, watching TV. Just that the content is football. Watching football in the stands is just different, because you shout from where you are in the stadium and the referee, linesmen, players, coaches all can hear you."

This blog is about passion and love for Hougang United Football Club, about connecting with the players of Hougang United. It's also about the people who run the S-league week-in week-out. And most importantly, about creating a community amongst Hougang United fans and supporters.

If fans want to see improvement in the S-League, they have to be the change themselves and select an S-League team to support. They can buy match tickets, club merchandise and help spread the word about their favourite football club.

And hopefully with this initiative, we may one day see Singapore move away from EPL colonialism and stand proudly for our own S-league.

Local support has been long overdue, thanks to our misplaced love and loyalty for other clubs elsewhere. It's time to shed those years and years of shyness and embarassment. Peel those layers off and reveal the true Singaporean in you. It's time to be a real football fan... NOW!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Liverpool, Steve McMahon and Profitable Group.

Liverpool warm up in Bangkok with Profitable Group in the background

In our last article we looked at the launch of a new football academy in India – a joint venture between Steve McMahon and his former club Liverpool.
Two years ago, in July 2009 to be precise, McMahon and Liverpool also teamed up as the Reds played exhibition matches in Singapore and Thailand in their so called 'The Kop Comes to Asia' tour. At the time, McMahon was commercial director of Strategic Sports Investment Co Ltd: the company that organised the tour. SSI was a part of Profitable Group one of Liverpool's 'official partners' (i.e sponsors) on the tour.

So why is that tour meritorious of an article in this blog? Because Profitable Group (PG) has, at the time of writing, 304 complaints lodged against its land-banking arm Profitable Plots (PP) by disgruntled investors who believe the company to be scammers and fraudsters. PG is currently being investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in Singapore and is being sued by ESPN for allegedly defaulting on advertising payments. The company's website no longer exists and PG is destined for the Hall of Shame occupied by the likes of Polly Peck and Stanford.

Our main concern in this article is the link between one of the world's great football clubs and an unpleasant little get-rich-quick fly-by-night company. However, a little background information on the PG scandal is necessary so that you can judge whether this is the type of company that Liverpool should be doing business with.

Profitable Plots was in the business of selling undeveloped land in England to investors, most of whom were from Asia. The idea is that, through PP, you buy your small piece of land and then, one day, a housing developer will want to buy your land from you and thus you make your profit. The problem is that most of the land PP held was green-belt land. The whole point of green-belt is that it provides, well, a green belt between urban and rural areas so as to prevent urban sprawl. As such, it is practically impossible to get planning permission. As one analyst put it "it's a legal scam. Once you buy your plot you can't build on it and you can't sell it. Who's going to buy [i.e which housing developer is going to buy] a small plot surrounded by other plots owned by other people? Yes, on paper it increases in value, in practice you can never sell." Sure enough, the complaints started rolling in as promised returns never materialised, and investors were either ignored by PP or given endless excuses.

In August 2010 the CAD raided PG's offices in Singapore and seized thousands of documents. Two months later, the CAD delivered their first report stating that "Profitable Plots' liabilities and obligations far exceed its assets. Therefore, CAD has grounds to suspect that the schemes were introduced to defraud its clients." By March of 2011, 229 complaints totalling $23.5m had been received by the CAD. By July those figures had risen to 304 and $30m. The courts in Singapore have repeatedly granted the CAD time extensions in their investigations as the complaints continue to pour in. The next hearing is due on November 8th.

But let's get back on track. How exactly do Steve McMahon and Liverpool fit into this? You might be forgiven for saying "Hang on! The CAD only raided PG in August 2010; Liverpool's PG-organised and sponsored tour occurred thirteen months earlier. How were they to know PG were dodgy?" The answer is simple: Because it was common knowledge well before July 2009 that PG was a highly suspicious outfit.

In 2008, the company's UK-based arm Profitable Plot Co Ltd went into liquidation for "failing to produce accounts". And PP's Malaysian subsidiary Profitable Plots Sdn Bhd was raided in October 2008 for "offering investments in illegal land investment schemes." As 2008 became 2009, the complaints from cheesed-off investors were already coming in by the dozen and in April 2009, PP first defaulted on a payment to ESPN. It was against this backdrop then that Liverpool decided to allow PG to organise and sponsor the Reds' Asian tour.

Liverpool wouldn't have known about the ESPN situation, but it's ludicrous to think that they wouldn't have known about, at least, the collapse of Profitable Plot Co Ltd, and in all likelihood the Malaysian subsidiary too, as the story had made the national press in England and, of course, Steve McMahon was a senior employee of PG. It's a very safe assumption that Liverpool chose PG on the recommendation of McMahon. From a business point of view it was a strange decision: PG had no experience of organising such tours and it showed. This was what Singaporean financial expert Hun Boon had to say: "My suspicions were raised by the Profitable Group's website. I first visited it when I wanted to purchase tickets for the Liverpool football match in Singapore in May 2009. The website was poorly designed and I couldn't find any information on how to buy. Why is an investment company in the business of organising football matches? The coordination and traffic management on match day were poor, highlighting their lack of experience in event management. They even played the Liverpool club anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' twice, but failed to broadcast the Singapore anthem when the Singapore national team marched in, displaying blatant disrespect for the host nation."

And things were just as bad for the match in Bangkok. This from an expat who attended the match there: "The crowd control was appalling. We had to go through an extremely narrow gate to reach the concourse where our tickets were checked. There was a huge crush at the entrance as hundreds of people tried to push their way through. The location of this gateway was at the top of a set of steps so the crowd were on all different levels. It also seemed to be the only way to gain access to the East stand - all the other ways in had be fenced off and were manned by security staff. This was an hour before kick off so it wasn't as if everyone had arrived late and was rushing to get in."

In 2011, Liverpool used ProEvents to organise their tour of Malaysia and China. ProEvents have an exemplary twenty-year history of organising such tours. The fact that they weren't used in 2009 suggests Liverpool were listening to McMahon rather than to their heads. Indeed, as Red Sports said in April 2009 "With the growing presence of Profitable Group in Singapore, it is unsurprising for the English side to be scheduled a visit to Singapore as Profitable Group's Commercial Director is none other than former Liverpool star Steve McMahon."

Despite the poorly organised tour and despite the mounting complaints against his employers, McMahon was in typically bullish mood just two days after the Singapore match as PG ended their interest in a takeover of Newcastle United.

PG had announced very loudly their intention to buy out Mike Ashley and bring the good times back to St James's. Their plans included expanding the stadium up to a 60,000 capacity and installing Alan Shearer as manager. But on 28th July 2009, it was reported that PG had pulled out owing to a lack of "communication and response" to their bid. McMahon blasted Newcastle and Ashley: "We [PG] wanted to come in and turn the club around because it clearly needs something at the minute. We have put in a bid and we have had no communication, no response – nothing. It really is poor form from Newcastle, but if that's the way they want to run their business good luck to them."

That last line should haunt McMahon and keep him awake at night. Newcastle are now back in the Premier League whilst PG are in the gutter. Mike Ashley may not win many popularity contests on Tyneside, but he absolutely made the right decision by ignoring PG's advances. Remember what the CAD said: "Profitable Plots' liabilities and obligations far exceed its assets". In layman's terms, they've got no dough. Had Ashley accepted PG's offer, it's not difficult to imagine the Magpies 'doing a Leeds', ending up in administration and having a local derby with Hartlepool instead of Sunderland.

It's unclear when McMahon eventually cut his ties with PG, but it was likely to have been sometime in 2010 when the shit really started to hit the fan. Undeterred, he has resurfaced in India and has again convinced his former club to put their faith in him. It goes without saying that we will be monitoring the Steve McMahon Football Academy, and the little-known Carnoustie Group behind it, very closely indeed.

In many ways, Liverpool is a great football club, but the way they conduct their overseas business does a disservice to their great name, traditions and remarkable fans back in England. Again and again when we look at Liverpool's activities in Asia we are left wondering,

What would Shankly say?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Liverpool's Indian Hope Trick

Liverpool FC recently announced the launch of a new academy in India. The Steve McMahon Football Academy, a franchise of the Liverpool International Football Academy, will open its doors in Delhi later this year and three more are planned for other areas of India. After that, Liverpool plan more academies in other Asian countries and beyond.

Unfortunately for the Reds, they seem to have got off to the worst possible start in their quest for world domination of the football academies market. Some journalists stormed out of the press conference for the launch of the Delhi soccer school as Steve McMahon, not known for his PR skills, stonewalled some of the more probing questions about the structure and aims of the academy. Unsurprisingly, a very unfavourable article about Liverpool's plans appeared in The Economic Times of India. If you have visions of urchins from India's infamous slums being noticed and propelled to stardom in a heartwarming rags-to-riches story, then think again. At $1,000 a pop, this academy is for India's burgeoning middle class only.
Some snippets below from the article which can be read in full HERE

What the club is essentially doing is lending its instantly recognisable brand name (for a fee, of course) to local entrepreneurs who would run training camps for well-heeled urban kids who could afford to fork out good money to learn to play the "Liverpool Way"

No screening, no talent spotting. If you can pay, come and kick a ball. This is football as fast-food franchise.

The issue McMahon, and other representatives from Liverpool, were trying to dribble past was that the venture's aim is to simply sell more Liverpool merchandise than produce better footballers.

Spanish giants Barcelona have a programme running for the past couple of years, and not to be left too far behind, arch rivals Real Madrid too started a similar campaign earlier this year. But the different styles adopted by the English club and its continental rivals reflects the EPL's "greed is good" attitude as opposed to the stronger community development commitment clubs in Spain have.

That last line is particularly damning. Remember this comes from the Economic Times, not the Morning Star. When a pro-capitalism, pro-free-market broadsheet is castigating you for putting profit first then there can be little doubt as to Liverpool's motives. And it again underlines that Liverpool's reputation as some sort of community-focused, left-of-centre, people's club in contrast to the rampant commercialism of Chelsea or Man U, is totally misplaced.
But we shouldn't be surprised. On Liverpool's official website, this is the blurb designed to entice investors to open a Liverpool branded international football academy franchise:  From a standard ‘pay as you play’ clinic or school holiday camp through to the ultimate offering with our International Football Academy. Our Academy franchise packages can provide you with the opportunity to develop an integrated brand presence by giving you the option to both (sic) Liverpool Football Club retail merchandising and food & beverage opportunities.

No mention there of helping under-privileged kiddies in poor countries make it to the big time; no mention of helping to improve the standard of football in the countries which Liverpool hope to colonize through their academy scheme. Just talk of selling merchandise and food & drink.
Spirit of Shankly? Spirit of Maggie more like.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

"Regional Tours are good for Asian football" and rebuttal (Jakarta Globe)

Dan Johnson: enemy of Asian football.

Two recent articles below from the Jakarta Globe. The first quotes the EPL's Dan Johnson saying that pre-season tours are good for Asian football. Below that is the rebuttal by Antony Sutton. Mr Sutton is a regular football writer for the Jakarta Globe and has his own SEA football blog HERE

EPL Says Regional Tours Help Develop Asian Game
English football clubs on preseason Asian tours benefit the sport in the region rather than taking the shine off the local scene, the Premier League’s chief spokesman said on Thursday.

“We’re here and we’re adding interest to the game, adding interest to football generally,” Dan Johnson said in Hong Kong, where a trio of top flight English clubs are competing with a local side for the Asia Trophy.

“I think if you can leave a legacy there as well as generating interest in the game, that’ll help develop the game here and we take that very seriously.”

Chelsea, Aston Villa and Blackburn are competing in the Asia Trophy with Hong Kong club Kitchee at Hong Kong Stadium.

Villa beat Blackburn 1-0 in its opening match while Chelsea on Wednesday thumped the locals 4-0.

The four-team event held every two years is in its fifth edition, and is hugely popular in the region. More than two thirds of the 80,000 tickets on offer were snapped up within five days.

Johnson said that despite the Premier League growing globally, Asia remained a key market for the clubs.

“Yes, the Premier League has grown across the globe, and teams are going to America and we’re big in Africa, but I think the passion and the knowledge and the understanding of fans in Hong Kong and the Asia region is still at that level up,” he said.

Johnson’s thoughts were echoed by former Aston Villa player Ian Taylor.

“This is where the most growth is and obviously you can see with the likes of Chelsea, Blackburn, Liverpool and Manchester United all coming over, obviously they see it as a big, big part of their brand management,” he said.

Original Article

Can we all spot the obvious contradiction? First Johnson spouts the usual guff about helping to develop the local game and leaving a 'legacy' (the most over-used and mis-used word in management-speak today) and in the next breath says that Asia remains a "key market for the [EPL] clubs". How can you possibly have it both ways? You're either helping the local game to develop or you're expanding the reach of EPL clubs. The two are not mutually compatible. Dan Johnson speaks with a forked tongue and is an enemy of Asian football.

Thankfully, Antony Sutton wrote an excellent rebuttal:

EPL Summer Tour Brings Little Good for Host Nations
It’s been quite a summer for fans of the English Premier League who live in Asia. Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers have all swung through the region while Manchester United, determined not to feel left out, sent a couple of players to show the flag — and the FA Cup.

The EPL’s argument is that these tours benefit local football. Spokesman Dan Johnson, speaking from Hong Kong, where Chelsea, Aston Villa and Blackburn were competing in the Asia Trophy, said, “We’re here and we’re adding interest to the game, adding interest to football generally.”

Of course, there is no way of quantifying that. The EPL doesn’t do anything without running the numbers first, just like any other commercial organization. So how does it come up with the notion that local football is getting more popular because its teams are in town?

How can Aston Villa playing Blackburn in Hong Kong benefit the game in Hong Kong? How can a Chelsea team playing a mishmash All-Star Thai team help the local game, especially when the Thai national team is playing Palestine in a crucial World Cup qualifier? It may seem unimportant to Chelsea, with its big money players and its chairman and his fancy yacht, but the qualifiers are important to Thailand. By having Chelsea play in town on the same weekend, it diluted the experience.

Malaysia played Arsenal and Liverpool ahead of its World Cup qualifier against Singapore. It scored 10 goals in those two friendlies then proceeded to get thumped 5-3 in the first leg. Those EPL matches helped how, exactly?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, the so-called Professor with his unrivaled knowledge of the world game, went into the friendly against Malaysia knowing nothing about his hosts. That’s how lightly he treated the game. The traveling press pack, no doubt keen to impress the local johnnies, asked plenty about Cesc Fabregas and nothing about the Malaysian team.

You could argue that the last thing local nations need from the EPL are these high-profile, highly profitable tours. Indonesia’s last two home games have drawn crowds of 88,000 and 96,000. Malaysia’s last two have attracted 90,000 and 86,000. Turkmenistan and Singapore may not seem that attractive in English eyes, but for locals, these are massive games.

The Thai Premier League is stalling somewhat after a couple of booming years. That boom had nothing to do with any EPL team waving to the cameras in Bangkok. It was the decision to make teams more representative of their area rather than just acronyms of corporate entities.

In Indonesia, teams like Persib Bandung, Persija Jakarta, Arema Indonesia and Persebaya Surabaya regularly draw big crowds in spite of football’s incompetent managers and with no thanks to any EPL team on the ground. The Malaysia Cup final regularly draws 80,000 plus.

No, the Asian football federations don’t need EPL tours to raise interest in their respective leagues. What they need is competent management, savvy marketing and an exciting product.

200 up on Facebook

We reached the 200 Likes mark on Facebook today. Considering the page is only 20-days-old, that's pretty good going and compares very favourably with other like-minded groups. There's a Facebook group called Anti-EPL based in Malaysia. They've managed 453 Likes since last September, and a group called United as fans against the Premier League has done 51 Likes since May.
If you haven't done so already then please visit the page and click Like. Thanks.

Criticism #3. Blame the Football Associations

Photo: Not a rhetorical question: What's an officially branded Man U motorbike on sale in Thailand got to do with developing and helping local football?

The third part in our series where we tackle some common criticisms aimed at our movement and its point of view.

Critic: Don't blame the EPL for the relative unpopularity of local Asian leagues: it's the fault of the useless, incompetent, corrupt governing bodies in those countries. They failed to properly develop their own leagues leaving a vacuum for the EPL to fill.

SEPLCiA: We agree! In particular, the football associations in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia need to ask some serious questions of themselves and be asked some serious questions. Corruption and plain incompetence are issues in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia whilst in Singapore there has almost been an unwillingness on the part of the FAS to promote their domestic S-League. And the suits still don't seem to get it. In July we were treated to the sight of the FAM and the FAT rolling out the red carpet for Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Shouldn't these people be doing absolutely everything in their power to promote their own leagues instead of giving yet more publicity to some of the richest clubs in the world?

Yes, the respective FAs should take a lot of the blame for the popularity of the Premier League in South-East Asia. But, as much as they've been part of the problem they have the potential to be part of the solution; EPL clubs can NEVER be that. For all the problems that remain in Thai football, for example, the league has come a long way over the past couple of years. Increased publicity and professionalism have led to a huge rise in interest and attendances. Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have played no role (and nor should they) in the boom in Thai football.
Despite their high-minded talk of 'legacies' and 'development', EPL clubs have absolutely no positive part to play in the future of Asian football. As they are so keen to tell us, they are businesses now. So for them to claim that they want to help to build and develop local leagues goes against their own declared business principles.
If they truly care about the future development of football in the region then they should stay out – no more pre-season tours; no more megastores; no more one-sided 'partnerships' with Asian clubs – and allow the domestic Asian leagues to develop in their own way and in their own time without the European giants forever hovering in the background looking for new 'customers'.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Chelsea v TPL All-Stars preview on BKK Football blog

An article from the middle of July posted on the BKK Football Blog previewed the Chelsea v TPL All-Stars match which took place in Bangkok on the 24th July. Here's an excerpt:  
The Thai media generally get quite excited about these glamour matches and there will be plenty of hype in the build up for the game next week. The match gives an ideal opportunity for self-important Thais to have their photo taken with uninterested Chelsea stars. The majority of the Chelsea players will see this trip as an inconvenience. Gone are the days when British teams could use these foreign trips as an excuse for a piss-up. The EPL stars will most likely be in and out of the country as quickly as possible.

Click HERE to read the full article.

Criticism #2. "Why can't fans support both?"

Photo: The red of Muangthong is beginning to replace the red of Man U and Liverpool in Thailand.

Critic: "What's wrong with Asian fans supporting an EPL club if they also support a club from their domestic league? It's possible to do both."

SEPLCiA: Certainly that scenario is preferable to just 'supporting' an EPL club. Of course, it is possible for fans to support both, and many do. Whereas yesterday's criticism regarding the J. League was met with cold statistics, today's argument is more a matter of personal opinion. Put frankly, I simply don't understand why fans who support a club in their own domestic league also feel the need to claim to 'support' Liverpool or Man U or Chelsea or Arsenal. I'm not saying that just for effect: I genuinely don't understand it and would be grateful if such a fan would post a comment on here or on the Facebook page to explain his/her motivations.

I think it's probable that as fans elect to support one of their local clubs, and follow that team home and away, their support for an EPL club will start to wane. It stands to reason. Staying up until the early hours to watch a match taking place on the other side of the planet on your TV in your living room can surely not compare or compete with the human experience of being at the stadium and being part of a local community of fans and supporting a club that represents where you live or where you come from. Comments made by recent converts to the Thai Premier League in THIS ARTICLE seem to bear out the view that fans will be less interested in the EPL if they follow one of their local clubs. Some telling extracts:

Interviewer: Why Sisaket?
Sisaket fan: "They’re my home town team. I’m so proud that we’re cheering for a local team, not for foreign teams, like the English premier league. I also like their style of playing."

Interviewer: What do you have to say to those who haven’t attended a game yet?
Muangthong United fan: I’d ask them to try. It’s not nearly as dangerous as they might think. Supporting local teams is way better than cheering for foreign leagues. You can see them for real, not just on a screen. We can touch them.

Interviewer: How does the football affect your life and your business?
Food vendor: It relaxes me and gives me something to do. Before this, I watched the English league. I wasn’t into it that much because I could only watch it on TV. But being able to see the real thing live is a superb experience. Not to mention I can sell a lot more, so it makes coming to work a lot more fun.

Interviewer: How do you feel about the Thai League?
Thai Port fan: I like it better than other foreign leagues because it represents Thai-ness and I get to be involved fully. It’s something tangible. I feel I can touch it.


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Criticism #1. "What about Japan?"

The first part of an ongoing series where we respond to some common criticisms and objections to our cause.

Critic: What about in Japan? There the Premier League is really, really popular and yet so is their domestic league. If the EPL is bad for domestic Asian leagues then why is the J League so popular?

SEPLCiA: It depends what you mean by "popular". We're not going to be totally blinkered and say that the J League isn't popular; it is – at least by Asian standards. But let's have a look at some figures. The most recent figures we can find for a whole season is for 2009. In that season, the average attendance was 19,126. Pretty good (although, remove Urawa Reds and the figure drops to around 15,000) but just under the 19, 827 acheived by the Eredivisie in the Netherlands. The Netherlands, a football-mad country, has a population of 16 million. Japan, an equally football-mad country which had the added boost of recently co-hosting the World Cup, has a population of 130 million. That 19,126 figure begins to lose some of its lustre.
So far in the 2011 season in the J League Division 1 (the top division), we find 12 of the 18 teams have recorded attendances of under 8,000. The average home attendance so far in 2011 is 15,107. Only two teams average home attendances of over 20,000.

Drop down a division to J. League Division 2 and the 'popularity' argument loses even more force. The average attendance in 2009 was 7,072, fewer than the Uzbek League. In 2011, the average so far is 6,314 with the lowest attendance of 1,273 recorded by Mito Holyhock. The best supported club in Tokyo – a city of 13 million people – is F.C Tokyo who are currently averaging 16,436. Tokyo's second club, Tokyo Verdy, averages 5,758 with a low of 2,164.

Yes, the J. League is popular compared with many in the region. But most stadiums are still usually only half full. There are clearly a lot of fans not supporting their local leagues. 

Welcome to 'Stop English Premier League Colonialism in Asia'

This blog has been launched owing to the popularity of the Facebook page bearing the same name. I felt I needed a place where longer articles could be posted and so the idea of a blog suggested itself. And it seems a good idea to use every Internet tool available to us in our campaign.
So what are we all about? The text below has been copied and pasted from our Facebook page.

About: We are against EPL colonialism in Asia. We are for Asian football fans supporting their local league clubs. We are based in Thailand

Description: We believe that the influence of the English Premier League in Asia, specifically Southeast Asia, has a deleterious and retarding effect on local leagues. In countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore the domestic leagues are unable to fulfill their potential owing to the omnipresence of the English giants.
TV coverage, merchandising, pre-season tours: these are the tools that Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal (amongst others) use to boost their brand to the detriment of the local game.
We know that these clubs are businesses and, as long as they abide by the laws of the countries they do business in, are entitled to conduct their business however they see fit. We know that a Facebook page and Twitter account will not halt their activities.
All we are saying is that if you think people in Asia should support their local leagues and teams then join us. It's as simple as that. When our support grows, we will hope to organize various protest events with pre-season tours in particular to be targetted.

Mission: To encourage Asian football fans to support their local league clubs.
To highlight and criticize the activities of Premier League and other European clubs in Asia.

So that's basically it. Anyone who disagrees with our point of view is more than welcome to leave comments and join the debate, but, obviously, any abusive, offensive or pointless posts which do not contribute to the discussion ("Man U is da best" etc etc) will be removed. But before you jump in with your criticisms we will be posting an article soon where we take on the common criticisms which have already been aimed at our movement in its short existence.

Enjoy the blog; take part in, and initiate, discussions and Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter
if you haven't done so already. Thanks.