The Far East Appeal

There seems to be a trend developing with regard to pre season destinations. A number of high profile football clubs have chosen to leave Europe in favour of the far east in search for that ideal start to their campaign.
The preparation for the season ahead is essential and clubs often have a limited time schedule to work with. So what is it about the Far East that is so appealing and why are clubs changing their approach this time around?
The summer of 2011 is the first time since 2001 that Arsenal Football Club have made arrangements for a pre season tour outside of Europe. Arsenal regularly held their training camps in Austria, this year however they appear to have changed their position switching their attention to the far east.
Few clubs to date have been able to wield such financial influence over the asian market as Manchester United. Some consider this success to be attributed to the marketing of midfielder Ji-Sung Park.
Simply there is no other asian player that has had an impact quite like the South Korean. He is the most decorated footballer in asian history, as the first South Korean player to have won the UEFA Champions League and the first asian to have played in a final of the tournament.
When he first signed for Manchester United in July 2005 many were surprised to see him feature so frequently. Park’s involvement and popularity has sparked huge interest and this has been evidenced by a significant increase with regard to club merchandise and shirt sales figures. The reception that Ji-Sung Park receives when he goes home has been described as phenomenal.
In terms of all round contribution both on and off the pitch few would contest that he is one of Manchester United’s most ‘important’ players. Needless to say many leading clubs are searching for a similar profile to boost their clubs global recognition.
Gavin Law, the group head of corporate affairs for Liverpool’s shirts sponsor, Standard Chartered announced that, “they would love the club to have players of nationalities from the markets in which they operate”. He cited Manchester United player Ji-Sung Park as a working model. He has shown his commercial value but also that asian players can make it in Europe.
Ian Ayre, the managing director at Liverpool FC described what Asia 2011 was for Liverpool Football Club. He said that aside from aspects relating to commercial opportunity “It was a real chance for both the new signings and the younger players to see the size, power and the importance of the football club”.
The attendances at these pre season games can sometimes eclipse those attendances in the Premier league which in itself is staggering. Somewhere within the region of 200,000 fans connected with Liverpool Football Club over a one week period.
Manchester United and Liverpool have demonstrated that they are leading the way in terms of exploiting commercial opportunity in the far east. Arsenal Football Club have also actively taken steps to increase commercial productivity overseas and surely other competitors will follow suit even if it’s only in fear of being left behind.

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