Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Asian leagues "must market themselves and clubs"

Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam, has re-emphasised that Asian football leagues must learn to transform themselves into business entities and market themselves and their clubs in the way Europe does. "We need to commercialise the football business in some of the countries ... including India, China, and Iran among others," he told AFP. "We need to see that the clubs are transformed into business entities and that we create leagues that take care of the collective financial interest and commercial interest of the clubs in each country. Asian leagues need to leave the football administration to the football associations, and focus on the commercialization of the national leagues through the respective league bodies that work under the football association's states. It is only with this level of focus that success commercially will be achieved.

"The money is there, the sponsors are there," he said. "But historically the sponsorships have been treated like donations, and not business partnerships. This mindset needs to change. The clubs are running after sponsors to give them money, the leagues are running after money. But it is only through developing business relationships that are mutually beneficial that we will see more revenue coming into the clubs. Of course we believe that football can provide the right platform for sponsors to talk directly to their consumers. This is proven. But there has to be mutual interest.

"We have extensive commercial and communications programs to improve our image and at AFC we lead from the front by setting the example of having a commercial professional platform," he said. "We are going to create a platform for talented players in Asia and around the world to work in Asia as professional players. And this needn't be a long-term objective. At the end of the day, if the money is here, then players will come. Which goes back to my first point, which is to commercialise those leagues and create an environment that attracts the best players."

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