Asia Trophy set for Hong Kong return
Manchester City, Tottenham and Sunderland likely to appear next year in popular event as English Premier League sees city as top-value venue
The English Premier League (EPL) Asia Trophy is set to return to Hong Kong next summer, just two years after the showpiece was last staged in the city.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and other league executives were expected to be in town this week to iron out the details, a source close to the deal said yesterday.
Three Premier League sides - defending champions Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland - have been targeted for the two-day event in early August, along with the Hong Kong league champions.
"It's not yet a done deal, but it is very close," said the source. "That's why the EPL is coming to Hong Kong to finalise the details."
One of the areas the EPL party is expected to examine is the availability of training facilities. "The Asia Trophy is part of the pre-season build-up of these teams and they want to be guaranteed top-class training facilities in Hong Kong so their preparations are not adversely affected," the source said.
In July 2011, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers attracted more than 70,000 fans in two days to Hong Kong Stadium, but it was announced at the time the tournament would be staged in other countries in the region before heading back to Hong Kong. "Hong Kong is an attractive place for the Premier League and has got a lot more to offer than some countries," said the source.
"There is strong interest in Premier League football here and it is almost guaranteed a full stadium for the Asia Trophy. Also, there is no security issue to worry about when staging the event in Hong Kong, although it may be a bit more expensive.
"These are among the chief factors in their renewed interest in returning here instead of trying new venues."
The Asia Trophy was introduced in 2003 and has been held every two years. Four cities have hosted the event so far - Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Beijing - with Hong Kong the only city to have staged the event twice.
In 2007, Liverpool, Fulham and Portsmouth and South China featured in the two-day event with more than 75,000 fans watching the competition. Two years later in Beijing, Spurs, West Ham, Hull City and hosts Guoan took part, but only 17,000 people attended the event in two days.
With an exhibition match between Kitchee and Manchester United planned for next summer, there should be four Premier League teams in Hong Kong in the space of 10 days. "It should be a little bit like the rugby Sevens," the source said. "In a consolidated period, there will be a festival of top-class soccer. This is really exciting for the fans."