Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Asia ManU fans 'don't care' about Glazer takeover

Far from the hostile reaction seen in Britain, many Asian fans couldn't care less about the Glazer family's controversial takeover of Manchester United. One expatriate sports promoter and "huge" United supporter quoted by News24 of Hong Kong said: "Asian fans are big fans but they follow the team, not the club. They will follow the stars but they seem more detached from it. They're watching it in bars whereas people in England are going to the game and paying £50 a week."

According to ManU communications director, Philip Townsend, the club's Asian supporters "appreciate the opportunity to see us play and our visits do create more fans. This is illustrated by the fact that our fan base continues to grow in the region."

All this is good news for the Glazers who are looking to recoup reported post-takeover debt of £500m, opined News24. "With profits of £27m last financial year, the new owners clearly need to find extra revenue. As well as raising ticket prices and extending the Old Trafford stadium to 75 600 seats, they will be looking to tap in to United's unmatched Asian fan-base estimated at 40 million supporters", the service said.

"Manchester United have always looked at trying to develop their brand in Asia and that will continue to be part of the strategy," said Harry Philp, managing director of London-based consultancy Inner Circle Sports. "It's been questionable as to how successful it's been in terms of the revenue it's been able to generate but I think the Glazers will look to continue to develop the brand there."

"I think Asia and the US are the main markets they're clearly going to target," Philp said. "Clearly with their knowledge of American sports they feel there's things they can do there in terms of commercial development."

Manchester United has courted Asia assiduously over the years with initiatives including a Chinese-language website, club shops, soccer schools and credit cards. It also supports charities in the region and donated $400 000 to fight human-trafficking in China this month, News24 reported.