Trophy host fears long wait for replay
It has taken four years for the Barclays Asia Trophy to return to Hong Kong this week, and Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak (pictured) fears fans may face another long wait for the tournament to return again.
Over 76,000 fans attended the event when it was first held here in 2007 and organisers expect a similar figure for this year as Chelsea, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and domestic champions Kitchee contest the tournament at Hong Kong Stadium over two match days.
Leung believes the city will always be a top choice for the Premier League to promote itself overseas, but is concerned their next target might not be in Asia.
'I was told the game is getting increasingly popular in the United States and the Premier League may choose North America as the venue for their next event in two years,' said Leung. 'You can tell there are more and more top teams from Europe that are going there for their pre-seasons, like Manchester United and Barcelona.
'If that happens, considering there are other cities in Asia, areas that are interested in staging the tournament, we may not be able to bring the biennial event back soon. Of course, it is too early to talk about the next tournament [or the one after that], but we will do our best to bring back the popular event as soon as possible.'
A Barclays spokesperson said: 'There have been no discussions about future Barclays Asia Trophy locations. The next tournament is in two years, so it's too early to comment on where it goes next. Suffice to say we are absolutely delighted with the 2011 tournament so far in Hong Kong and we're looking forward to Saturday's games.'
Leung admitted he was a bit disappointed the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium was not full on Wednesday night but both the association and the Premier League were happy to see the 34,000 fans who did turn up. Over 7,000 blue and white chequered flags had been provided by Chelsea for the fans to wave in every corner of the venue, rivalling the displays seen at Stamford Bridge, the club's West London home ground.
'The event is broadcast live to many countries and all the audience can feel the excitement of the fans and the matches which leave [them] with a big impression of the Premier League,' said Leung.
'On top of that, the organisers are also happy with all the support facilities we provide for the tournament, such as the venue, security checks, training grounds and hospitality. That's why we are confident the event will be brought back to Hong Kong in future - although it may take a longer absence this time.'