As most clubs are finding out it’s becoming more marketable to go abroad for preseason friendlies, there are multiple different reasons why the foreign market is more appealing to football clubs in today’s age. One of the reasons is due to the number of people that don’t support a football team, therefore, it gives teams the chance to gain fans and ultimately increase their revenue.
Many bigger teams had already attracted fans across the majority of Asia therefore making it harder for the smaller clubs to gain fans due to the lower chances of trophies. Clubs are now competing in the Premier League Asia trophy during preseason with an aim to attract the interest of more fans. Currently, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have the most fans in Asia and often visit the continent for preseason friendlies. Not only due to the challenging climate (to gain match fitness) as well as the aim to increase the club’ popularity.
The smaller clubs will have great trouble in competing with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United, as would be expected in any business climate, for example, a business competing with Apple for touchscreen phones will lose the majority of the time no matter what amount of investment is pumped into the product due to the strength and trust of Apple’s brand image. This is also applicable to football clubs competing in the foreign markets. A few months ago I was at Watford FC and spoke to some of their marketing team they told me how there was a Premier League event held in India of which 100,000+ fans attended. They asked every fan who they supported and recorded the results, I was asked how many picked Watford so I guessed 500. I was wrong, very wrong. A total of 19 people supported Watford. This shows that some clubs haven’t gone into the Asian market and ultimately are missing out on possibly large revenues. It also shows how the bigger clubs control the markets and this means that smaller clubs such as Watford don’t generate sufficient interest due to lack of trophies and marketing in Asia.
The bigger clubs clearly tapped the Asian market first, this is seen as many of them have the biggest following out there but clubs are also expanding to the US where the split is more even (in comparison to Asia). Chelsea have ventured into parts of Europe, and have recently played in Hungary before the beginning of the 14/15 season, this season Chelsea are off to Poland and Sweden for preseason which hints that they believe they can gain following there.
Why do clubs want more fans abroad?
Ultimately football clubs are becoming more like businesses, the clubs are attracting more fans in the hope that they will buy merchandise which leads to more money for the clubs. The aim is to attract as many fans as possible to change from neutral to their team and playing matches in those countries are a key step to ensuring that. For example, if club X were to play a game in front of 20,000 people and 10% of those people were to buy a replica shirt priced at £50 they would make £100,000 from that alone. However, 10% is a high figure but there is more made when clubs travel over preseason than fans visiting the megastore on matchday. It’s also important to note that the club would get taxed on profits.
Finally, Richard Scudamore proposed for a 39th Premier League game to be played off the continent at one point, however, his ideas were rejected and the Premier League season remains at 38 games. This is the only major step ever tried to play Premier League games outside of the UK and Europe.
Over the next few years, it’s likely that Premier League club will continue to push markets abroad, Everton played in Africa last year which is still a market which has been left somewhat compared to others. Fewer games are being played closer to home now in a trend which has no signs of changing.