Barcelona FC sets up office in Hong Kong in bid to lure Asian fans
Bloomberg and Natalie Wai
Spanish soccer champions Barcelona will lease space in a building in Central as the team takes on Manchester United in attracting fans in Asia.
The team will occupy a floor measuring more than 3,000 sq ft at 8 Queen's Road, Central, owned by Sing Pao Investment, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is not public.
Barcelona's finance director, Javier Faus, announced the plan to open an office in Hong Kong at a press conference in the Spanish city on Tuesday, without giving more details.
Susanna Ho, a spokeswoman for Sing Pao Investment, declined to comment on the report.
European soccer teams from Spain and Britain regularly play pre-season exhibition matches in Asia to attract more fans and revenue from the region.
Barcelona will play exhibition matches in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as part of their Asian tour next month, while English Premier League champions Manchester United will play a pre-season game against Kitchee in Hong Kong on Monday. Manchester City, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur are currently competing in the Barclay's Asia Trophy 2013 tournament being held in the city.
Spanish soccer has lagged behind the popularity of the English Premier League in Hong Kong. EPL champion Manchester United estimated in 2011 that 190 million of its 330 million fans were in Asia.
Barcelona won the Uefa Champions League - Europe's most prestigious competition - three times in the past decade, beating Manchester United in the final twice.
The club, featuring four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, was ranked the world's third-most valuable soccer team by Forbes magazine this year, one place behind Manchester United. Spanish rivals Real Madrid were rated first.
The 16th, 23rd and 25th floors at 8 Queen's Road Central are all currently vacant. However, the 16th floor is under renovation and looks most likely to become Barcelona's new space.
The Spanish giants appear to be planning to enter the mainland market by first establishing a base in Hong Kong.
European soccer teams also appear to be eyeing the Asian retail market. Manchester United have opened a store in the Venetian casino complex in Macau that offers the largest selection of Manchester United merchandise outside of Old Trafford, the team's home ground.