Why Premier League teams are flocking back to Asia

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    Vijay was born in Singapore – nearly 11,000km (6,800 miles) away from Liverpool’s Anfield stadium – and he’s been waiting since 2011 for his team to visit his home city.

    He’s not the only one. Earlier this month more than 50,000 fans filled Singapore’s National Stadium for a friendly match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace.

    After three years of Covid travel bans, English Premier League teams are once again criss-crossing the globe on pre-season summer tours.

    The financial significance of these trips is hard to overstate. When Manchester United registered a commercial revenue loss of nearly $56m (£46.8m) in 2021, the club said it was “primarily due” to Covid disruptions, which included the cancellation of the first team’s pre-season tour in India.

    Now with restrictions eased, many clubs are flocking back to their number one overseas market.

    “Asia is our single largest region in terms of fan base,” Billy Hogan, Liverpool’s chief executive told the BBC.

    “Someone once said to me you could stand at any airport and jump on any plane and have a reason to go there and find Liverpool fans. But a third of our global support is here and we feel there’s tremendous opportunity in Asia.”

    Global appeal

    This summer Premier League rivals Manchester United chose to visit Thailand and Australia, where they also played Liverpool and Crystal Palace.

    Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur went to South Korea, which is the home country of their superstar striker Son Heung-min.

    From a sporting point of view, these trips make little sense. Long flights across several time zones, high temperatures and humid weather are not ideal preparation for a new season back home in England.

    “It’s not my favourite thing to do,” says Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp, in response to a question from the BBC at a press conference.

    “First and foremost I’m a coach and if we could do two weeks in Austria and train twice a day there, that would be better.”

    “But we know how big our fanbase is in Asia and to be close to them is a wonderful thing.”

    In reality, the debate in elite football was settled a long time ago. The commercial argument has won conclusively and executives this summer will feel vindicated by the high levels of demand they have seen in the region.

    New figures reported this year show that, for the first time ever, the Premier League will receive more revenue from international broadcasters than it will from domestic channels in its UK home market. Asia alone is expected to account for $1.4bn between next season and 2025.

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