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.

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