Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughHalf the World Away - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Half the World Away - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Half the World Away

The pre-season tour is a summer ritual that every club takes part in to improve match fitness and to ensure that new additions to the team have a chance to gel with the existing members.

Today, however, it is not only about achieving match fitness and team bonding, it is also about promoting the brand and raising awareness about the club across the world. This is why we now see clubs heading all over the globe rather than just a quick trip to Europe.

Of course some teams do still head to Europe for their tour, but it is generally those who the financial benefits of travelling half way across the world would not be little or none.

Today, Asia and America are the popular destinations for the top teams to go on tour to. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton, Newcastle and a whole lot more will be heading over one of the two, all hoping to capture a bit of the market.

Many purists would say that this is unnecessary and that it is all just about creating profit for the football club, and of course the sponsors. And you can be 100% sure that the sponsors do play a part in deciding where the pre-season tour goes.

Liverpool’s sponsor, Standard Chartered, have organised this year’s tour to Asia in hopes to conquer the Asian market. The club’s managing director, Ian Ayre, said: “The last tour in 2009 was a real success and we’re delighted that we are returning this summer after a break last year due to the FIFA World Cup.

“We will work closely with our main sponsor Standard Chartered and our other partners in the region to ensure we can deliver our best ever pre-season tour.”

One team who have already taken a huge slice of the Asian market is Manchester United. They have spent a long time laying down links in Asia, as far back as 1975. But in 2009 their popularity boomed thanks to their tour across the continent that year.

The Red Devils are particularly popular in South Korea and this is somewhat down to a certain midfielder named Park Ji-Sung, it is fair to say he is a national icon. It is no coincidence that 1.2 million South Koreans have Manchester United credit cards and that the team tours there in the summer.

What teams must ask themselves however, is this – Is it worth flying for 36 hours in total and playing no teams that give you a real challenge, just as United did in 2009, for the profit you stand to make?

And of course most of the time their answer would be yes, and the team would be on the next flight out in order to pimp the club and sell some t-shirts.

But here is the problem – footballers, unsurprisingly, play a lot of football. They play from August to May with no break, have about three weeks off and then get back into training. Do they really need to be flying all over the world in July, when most pre-season tours take place, when they should be concentrating more on building their fitness and match competitiveness?

Of course the answer is no, teams would be much better off playing their European cousins, who would provide a good level of competition with a minimal amount of travelling. But then again there aren’t millions to be made by doing that.

Think about it though. Would you support a Spanish team who came over here on tour? Or would you continue to follow the team you do now? The difference is in Asia and America the European leagues are looked at as being better, and as they don’t have as high a level of football in their countries they go crazy for European football.

Football clubs are not just football clubs anymore though, they are businesses, and businesses have to make money. However, it is widely known that football clubs do not really make any money and this is why they have to gain support in places like Asia – a huge revenue boost.

It is said that India is the last big uncaptured football market with reportedly $600 million up for grabs; the question is who will get there first? I think the fact FC Barcelona are opening a football foundation there may just give you your answer.

James Haggis


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