WITHIN hours of arriving in Hong Kong, Liverpool’s footballers had launched their new “bold citrus” third kit, visited a children’s hospital, promoted a beer and posed for pictures with the club’s new official tyre partner.
Welcome to a day in the life on tour of one of the Premier League’s big six, where a kit launch on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel is followed by community engagement and perhaps even a little bit of training.
Liverpool are in Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia Trophy, which takes place every other year to avoid clashing with the World Cup or European Championship.
Jurgen Klopp’s team will meet Crystal Palace at Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday, immediately after the tournament opens with a match between West Bromwich Albion and 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City at the same venue.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 17, 2017
This is the time of year when Europe’s big clubs head off around the globe on pre-season jaunts that are part-sport and part-business.
This week alone, China will welcome both Milan clubs, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Lyon, while Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Inter visit Singapore next week. Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund are among those visiting Japan.
This year’s Premier League Asia Trophy is the eighth edition of the event that first took place in Kuala Lumpur in 2003. After this year’s running of the tournament, 21 English clubs will have competed, with Liverpool making their second appearance as they return to Hong Kong for the first time since 2007.
Traditionally, an Asian club has always taken part, with Thailand U23 – who reached the final in 2005 – the only local participants to have won a match in the tournament’s history.
However, this year, the trophy will be contested by four English clubs for the first time following the withdrawal of the Andre Villas-Boas-managed Shanghai SIPG.
Yet the local interest in, and appetite for, the tournament remains strong.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 17, 2017
Tickets for this year’s event sold out in record time, with all tickets being snapped up online or in local shops within little more than 24 hours of their release.
While it is easy to be cynical about European clubs heading East for financial gain, they are not the only ones to benefit, with supporters remaining as keen as ever to get out and watch them. Liverpool, with a strong local following including two supporters clubs in Hong Kong, are clearly the star turn, and it is perhaps interesting to note the tournament has never been staged without at least one of Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
Manchester United is the only giant of the English game yet to appear.
Trips such as Liverpool’s to Hong Kong not only continue to bolster the Premier League’s presence in Asia, which in turn boosts television revenues, but also give local fans a rare glimpse of their heroes. Supporters are expected to fly in from as far as Australia for Wednesday’s game.
English clubs have gained a huge financial advantage through their enormous global television deals, which includes US$2.2 billion a year from UK broadcasters and US$1.39 billion from their overseas partners. However, from 2019, Chinese broadcaster PPTV alone will pay US$235 billion a year to show Premier League matches, whereas SSMG currently pays US$16.9 billion a year for the rights to show live games.
As those television deals continue to rise, what is clear is that trips such as Liverpool’s to Hong Kong this week are here to stay – with the overblown kit launches and official tyre partners as much a part of the deal as the football itself.