The last time I wrote, I was preparing to go over to Jakarta for the first of Arsenal’s pre season friendlies. Time flies and it’s 10 days later as I update the blog again. The pre season is now in full flow and Arsenal have played another match since Jakarta. Other teams are also on tour and have completed at least one friendly. And that’s exactly where I want to get into.
Over recent years, Premier League clubs have taken a liking to visiting these parts of the world, or more specifically the Southeast Asia (SEA). It may look like a small region for so many of the big clubs to be visiting but the potential is huge. SEA comprises of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. These countries are laden with football mad fans who spent a lot of ungodly hours, just following and watching their respective teams in action.
The commercial aspect could not be overlooked as the main reason why these teams will want to visit countries so far away from England. There are fees involved as payment for the team to play matches over in these parts. Not to forget the individual sponsorships deals (whilst not as big as the Emirates or Nike deals) could have a significant financial reward.
That said, the commercial work should also tie in what the team/club can give back to their fans at these respective locations. What I can compare is between the two separate tours that I got to be involved in, which is Arsenal’s and Chelsea’s. The difference couldn’t be more stark between the two clubs. When I tweeted about the poor manner in which Chelsea treated the local fans and media in Kuala Lumpur, I got retorted that I don’t get it.
The reply included one which states that I shouldn’t be complaining. That if fans get to watch the team play, then it should be enough. That it shouldn’t be about going to a meet and greet or getting the chance to interact with the players. That, this is what is happening in all over Europe, so why should Asians get more privilege?
Now, let’s put a few things into perspective. If I’m following a team in SEA and they play all over SEA, I can equate that with someone in Europe following a team that plays all over Europe. It changes when one from SEA has to fork out the expenses required to go to Europe to watch that particular team play. Add to that the difference in earning power between those in SEA and Europe. There are very rich people in SEA who could probably afford to travel weekly to Europe to watch a game and fly back. However, that number is in the minority.
The rest are fans who are just a passionate in supporting the club as those who reside in Europe. If anything, the fans here realised that they are unable to see the team on a weekly basis and spends more time getting to know everything about the club via the internet. I dare say that some will have much more supreme knowledge about the club than those whole goes to the club’s matches week in, week out. So, what’s so wrong about rewarding these fans for their effort and time with a little gesture?
I understand and know that it’s not possible for any club to please every single fan. There’s little time to allow every single fan to get an autography from the players, or get a picture with them. But, how hard is it to make some area for fans to stand in and view those players from a distance? Yes, events are exclusive because of sponsor’s request but I just feel that the club should have made an effort to try to give more to fans. These fans would bite the hand that offers them a chance to be within view of their idols. Not everyone have parents who works in the giant companies that sponsors the team.
Whenever a Premier League team come to this part of the world, isn’t the intention to grow the fanbase and create a lasting impression on the locals? If what the fans feel are the separation between them and the team, then it only serve to defeat the purpose of the tour. While some of the more fanatical fans will throng the internet looking for stories on their favourite clubs written by UK journalists, the majority will still be depending on local media to satisfy their quench for updated news. So then, what’s the purpose of giving foreign journalist exclusive access to the team and snubbing the local media? Answers on a postcard, please.
Fans in these region are privileged that the big clubs choose destinations here as part of their tours. Yes, the events that are lined up here are more than what English fans or European fans are getting. You get to watch the team play competitive football where every result counts, on a weekly basis. I will certainly trade what you have with what I’ve got. But for the mean time, I’d say that we deserve all those things we’ve covered above.