The Asian Football Industry and its ever-growing expansion

· by Patrick Gornic

The expansion of the Asian football industry is something that has been happening for a while now. Countries like China, Japan or Thailand have invested billions of Euros these last few years, which makes it a common-sense conclusion to celebrate the next World Cup in that very same continent.

For a long time, Europe has been a loner in the football industry. The majority of investments, biggest signings and highest sponsorships came from European countries. However, as the industry blossomed, other parties came into play, making it a more competitive and prosperous market.

For instance, in 2017 Chinese clubs invested the record sum of 540 million Euro to sign players coming from Europe. Spanish clubs have earned 110 million Euro in incomes from China only last year. But China is not only investing in players for their national league. The best stadium in the world, according to the WFS Industry Awards, takes its name from a Chinese company: Wanda Metropolitano.

AC Milan, now back in European hands, had also a brief period of time when it belonged to Chinese investors. The same goes for their neighbors Internazionale Milano. This is also happening with other players, properties or federations, which are thriving with Asian capital. RCD Espanyol, Nice or PSG are just some other major examples.

Japan is also working hard to consolidate the Asian football industry. Local teams are investing millions of Euros in signing European players for their clubs. Japanese firm Yokohama took a massive step in 2015 by signing a 120-million-dollar deal for sponsorship with Chelsea. Last year the world witnessed how Japan took two major Spanish stars to their league: Fernando Torres and Andrés Iniesta. Both of them were offered wages that could easily compete with Europe’s major clubs. Iniesta’s case is indicative of how business and football are going more hand-in-hand than ever in the Asian football industry, having Rakuten, the e-commerce giant, present the Spanish player as the new Vissel Kobe’s star.

Countries such as China, Japan or Qatar, are creating more than 70 thousand football schools for children, understanding that the industry does not only increase when investing abroad, but mainly when nurturing the national product. This investment is not only being made by private companies. On the contrary, governments like the Chinese have started to invest public money in the consolidation of the Asian football industry.

India, a country known for its passion for cricket, has also stepped into the Asian football industry. For example, Football attendances for domestic matches doubled last year, going from 5,000 to 10,000. Sponsorship in football teams also grew in 2017 by 64%, making it clear that the growth of this particular sport in India is unstoppable.

Many European clubs have opened offices in the Asian continent. More than 20 top clubs, such as Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid or Chelsea, have seen the importance of being present in this continent. LaLiga has also just opened a brand new office in Singapore, maintaining its international expansion.

In all business, competition makes companies innovate and prosper, and that’s not going to be any different with football.

The industry is changing faster than most experts predicted. For instance, technology, advertisement or innovation companies have accessed football and they are not planning to leave.

That’s where the importance of creating bridges between the European and the Asian football industry sits. It is vital to organize and attend events and meetings where brands from Europe can meet brands from Asia. Marketing, merchandising, sponsorships and all business related to the sport need a place to find themselves and thrive.

The biggest opportunity for this comes in April, when World Football Summit is going to celebrate its first event in Asia. Malaysia is the place chosen by the organizers, making Kuala Lumpur the capital of football business for two days.