Hong Kong still on shortlist for Barclays Asia Trophy
Hong Kong still attractive host for Asia Trophy despite many bigger venues available in region
Hong Kong will remain at the top of the Premier League's shortlist when it comes to choosing a host for the Barclays Asia Trophy, chief executive Richard Scudamore has assured local fans.
The popular biennial tournament makes a third visit to Hong Kong this week, with Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland joining South China at Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday and Saturday.
But with the government still dragging its heels over the proposed sports hub at Kai Tak, and Premier League clubs visiting Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam this summer, there are plenty of other attractive options.
Singapore's sports hub, with a 55,000-seat stadium, is scheduled to open in April, while Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool will all play in front of sell-out stadiums across Asia this month with capacities much larger than Hong Kong's 40,000.
Scudamore insisted, though, that ticket sales and attendance were not key factors for the league, and Hong Kong had a number of key advantages. The 2003 and 2005 events were held in Malaysia and Thailand respectively, the 2009 one in Beijing, and 2007 and 2011 in Hong Kong.
"I think the likelihood of it continuing to be a stop is high," Scudamore told the Sunday Morning Post. "Whether that means we'll do it consecutively and it'll be the exclusive stop is open to question. It's the third time we're coming to Hong Kong.
"We've only done six so it's a hat-trick for Hong Kong and we find it an atttractive place to come, primarily because of the fans, the knowledge, the logistics and the ease of making it work.
"The Hong Kong FA are good to deal with and very professional and the whole thing is logistically easier to do here than some other parts, primarily because of the interest and the regional interest. People come from all over the region and it's a good place to play football matches.
"I wouldn't think [the stadium] would be a big factor for us - 40,000 for our type of event is adequate. It's a good number. We'd far rather be full or 95 per cent full because effectively we're trying to recreate the Premier League and the Premier League on average is played out in front of 40,000-seat stadia that are 95 per cent full."
Premier League teams have been greeted with remarkable fervour in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Jakarta, over the past couple of weeks, underlining the region's importance. "In number terms, it's 50 per cent of our global audience. Of the 804 million homes we reach, half of those are in Asia. You can see how important it is," said Scudamore.
But with clubs already flying across the region and beyond - Chelsea will follow Asia with a trip to the US, for example - playing a "real" league game seems the next logical step.
Scudamore, though, doesn't see the "39th game" idea - a round of matches played outside England with league points at stake - being resurrected soon.
"The clubs would do it in a heartbeat," he said. "The issue is the English fanbase and the English media gave it quite a severe going-over when we suggested it because of the tradition of having your 19 games that you've paid your season ticket for. Those times I don't think have changed enough yet to make it a runner."