Friday, June 22, 2007

Thai owner to spice up first Asian-owned EPL club

English football fans may soon be getting a "taste" for Asia. With the 20 clubs of the English Premier League sucking hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from Asian television, licensing and merchandising rights and tours and sponsorships, the tide has turned inscrutably with the imminent purchase of Manchester City FC by Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

According to Vidya Ram and Shu-Ching Jean Chen in Forbes, "if all goes according to the script detailed by Thaksin’s lawyer Noppadon Pattama, Thai pop stars will perform at the July 29 match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, spicy Thai food will be served to the stadium crowd and the game will be broadcast live back home in Bangkok." In the longer term, they wrote, the deal could bring Thai players to the Premier League.

Thaksin will invest in the club through a vehicle formed in the name of himself, his son Panthongtae and daughter Pinthongta and is reportedly negotiating with Sven-Goran Eriksson, the former manager of the English national team, offering him a three-year contract worth 2 million pounds a year and a transfer budget of at least 50 million pound (US$99.5 million) to take the helm of the club.

"The Asian people, especially in Thailand and China, like football very much. They watch almost every Premiership game that is broadcast live," he told James Ducker of The Independent (UK). "I am quite confident I can make Manchester City as popular in Asia as Liverpool and Manchester United in the next two or three years. I would also like to set up Academies in different parts of the world including China, Thailand and the Middle East."

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