Insights from Asia: Better together
One of the biggest opportunities for clubs in growing football markets like Asia is to work with the league to help grow the value of the competition. Broadcast rights are an increasingly significant source of revenue for Asian clubs meaning that helping to grow the value of those rights at a league level will ultimately benefit the clubs themselves. Failing to recognise the importance of the league’s development can leave both clubs and leagues exposed to the natural forces of global football, while innovating through closer collaboration can help both take charge of their own destiny.
A good example of real synergy between the clubs and the league is in the recently-formed Canadian Premier League (CPL). The CPL faces many similar dynamics to those in Asia – it is a young competition with limited domestic interest and is a relative unknown on a global scale, but with ambitious aspirations to grow and plenty of opportunity with a large, affluent population.
To achieve their ambitions, CPL clubs and the league office have worked together to innovate. This is best evidenced by the centralisation of scouting for international players. Club owners have been willing to collaborate with the league because they recognise that pooling their resources is more efficient, and will ultimately lead to better outcomes for the league and therefore the clubs themselves.
The centralisation of scouting to the league has resulted in younger players from higher quality teams joining the league, as well as growing global awareness of the CPL. In time, the move is expected to grow the value of the competition as these players perform, raising the standard of football before moving on to play in other leagues where they will talk positively about their experiences in Canada. This is just one example of where closer collaboration may yield long term benefits to both the clubs and the league itself.
Asian leagues could benefit from taking a similar, collaborative approach, perhaps most obviously in helping their clubs perform in cross-border competitions such as the AFC Champions League. Performance in these competitions is perhaps the clearest way to enhance the global reputation of both the clubs and the league, and therefore to generate leverage in broadcast negotiations.
There is perhaps some evidence of a desire to work together in Asia already. The recent takeover of Home United, now Lion City Sailors, in Singapore is motivated in part by a desire to improve the prospects of football in the country, not just for the club. The new club Chairman, Forrest Li, suggested in the press release that his company, Sea, was “proud to play our part in elevating Singapore football to the next level”. Closer partnership between the Singapore Premier League and its clubs may be the best way to achieve this elevation.
Asian football is developing fast, with many stories of success. Closer collaboration between the clubs and the leagues is just another way to help on this journey and it is those clubs and leagues with the confidence to innovate who be first will seize the opportunity.