Naturally football fans were in jubilant mood as they watched last week’s match between Manchester United and Kitchee at the Hong Kong Stadium. But the event also cast a shadow over Hong Kong’s international image as a world-class city and a potential hub for sports events.
The sub-standard surface of the stadium pitch had caused much concern beforehand. Although the players appeared unaffected by the under-foot conditions – and fortunately no one was injured - home affairs minister Tsang Tak-sing apologised for the lack of proper maintenance and promised a review to rectify the situation.
What does this saga have to do with MBA studies? Well, needless to say, football is big business and can give a significant boost to a local economy with the large sums of money now involved. Government officials blamed the poor state of the pitch in part on the intensive schedules of matches around that time. These matches, though, brought in revenue from tourists paying for hotels and services, sales of souvenirs associated with the teams, and higher spending in bars, restaurants and other outlets.
Representatives of another British team, Manchester City, were in Hong Kong a few days earlier hosting a joint function with the Manchester Business School. One aim was to build links with local businesses and potential sponsors, but speakers also emphasised that running a Premier League club demands in-depth management knowledge and entails all the complexities of international business. It can’t be long before MBA programmes start to focus more attention and case studies on what it takes to build a business empire around a football club.
By most standards, football business in Hong Kong is underdeveloped. Overseas stars have far greater appeal here than the home-grown players. Developing the sport, though, could create multiple business opportunities, revenue from which could easily surpass that generated by ticket sales. And as the commercial activities associated with a successful team grow, they bring broader economic benefits.
It may already be happening in Manchester, but case studies of how Premier League teams create and sustain a worldwide business could soon be a part of every MBA programme.