The Barclays Asia Trophy, also known as the Premier League Asia Trophy, is a Premier League-sponsored four-way football tournament held every two years in Asia since 2003.
Originally known as the FA Premier League Asia Cup, the Asia Trophy is held once every two years in odd years, to avoid conflicts with the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Football Championship tournaments.
It’s the only Premier-League affiliated tournament to be held outside England, and in that respect can be seen as the precursor to the Game 39 proposal. Furthermore, it’s a test bed for the Premier League to experiment with different ideas to export the league outside England and while Premier League teams have traveled to Africa and North America in recent years, Asia still remains the prime destination with a market measured in hundreds of millions (if not billions), not tens of millions like in Africa / North America.
Barclays Asia Trophy – Tournaments
The first edition the Barclays Asia Trophy was played in Malaysia, featuring Chelsea, Newcastle United, Birmingham City and the Malaysian national team. Chelsea won the final after a penalty shootout, with all matches payed in the Bukit Jalil Stadium. The tournament was a marketing success and would lead to this tournament becoming a regular stable of pre-season preparations for the Premier League.
With due respect to the teams involved, this was perhaps the most low-key of the Premier League Asia Trophy tournaments, with Everton, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and the Thailand national team in action. Bolton won the competition, and rumour has it that Thaksin Shinawatra learned for the first time that there was a team other than United in Manchester.
Hong Kong 2007
The Premier League returned to it’s policy of bringing in at least one ‘marquee’ team every tournament with Liverpool the star attraction alongside Portsmouth, Fulham and South China AA. Hong Kong was the ‘breakout’ event for the Barclays Asia Trophy and was termed as a massive success in marketing terms. Portmouth won the final against Liverpool on penalties, and South China ended up in 4th place.
Premier League Asia Trophy – 2009
China is the venue for the 2009 edition of the Asia trophy, with Beijing and Shanghai touted as possible locations. Possible backups include South Korea and possibly Hong Kong, but the Premier League are pushing to get China involved to get a solid crack at the local market. Chelsea, Hull City (at the time of invitation they were flying high in the Premier League) and West Ham were invited in November 2008, and the tournament is expected to take place in mid July.
The tournament coincides with Manchester United’s and Liverpool’s summer tours of Asia, giving the Premier League a bumper opportunity to promote the Premiership brand in Asia.
What’s next for the Premier League?
The success of this tournament coupled with increased demand for the Premier League in North America can very well see this tournament being held in Australia in 2011 or a copy of this tournament being held in North America, although from a purely financial perspective those economies are already ‘hooked’ to Premier League football and are easier to market to than their Asian counterparts, plus there’s more money to be made in Asia anyway.