Emergence of ‘new’ leagues worrying for current giants

Platinum One CEO Fintan Drury discusses the emergence of China, UAE and USA within the ‘global game’…

I had lunch today with a friend who owns a bookshop and who has a good interest in sport. Like most of us who grew up with Best, Law, Charlton, Giles et al.he followed football since he was young though his interest waned somewhat quite some time ago.
We got talking about what I do and the business focus on football at the expense of other sports where I had previously invested resources. When he asked me if the phenomenal earnings in professional football was all about TV Rights I explained that it was a critical factor but that the biggest consideration in the commerciality of football as a sport is its truly global appeal and that, while we had grown up in a part of the world where it had always enjoyed mass appeal its popularity across the globe was simply “exploding” and would continue to do so. With the economic development of the last decade in Asia and more recently in parts of sub Saharan Africa the appetite across newly maturing markets with huge populations for football as an entertainment form that attracts people of all ages and, increasingly, of both genders, means that there is no end in sight for its financial boom.
The figures around TV rights always garner most attention but what has been equally remarkable is the growth in spectator numbers (even in England during the worst of the economic recession of the last six years) across key markets and particularly the now unstoppable force that is the growth of “soccer” in the United States of America which remains a hugely influential source for the economic endorsement of any sport or entertainment.
When we were finishing up our lunch I asked my friend if he had heard of a club called Jiangsu Suning? He had not. I asked him if he had heard of a player called Alex Teixeira? There was more hesitation but again he said that while he thought that maybe he should that he could not honestly say that he knew of him. Clearly not an expert but still, he would know more about football in these islands than a great many people and yet when I told him that the club was Chinese, had paid almost £40 million for the Brazilian midfielder and that this followed on the signing of Ramires (who he did know!) from Chelsea for over £20 million by the same club he was left defeated by the sheer scale of it all.
What is more when I told him that Teixeira is only 26 years old but had reportedly shunned offers from some of Europe’s biggest clubs to pursue his career in China he realised the emphasis I had placed on the enormous global power of the football industry was not misplaced. There is in this a lesson for more than my bookseller school friend. Liverpool, still one of the world’s most attractive football institutions had been desperate to sign Teixeira from Shaktar but could not compete with the financial firepower of the big Chinese clubs. The global power play is really just getting underway. Europe may not, for that much longer, be the overwhelmingly dominant feature of the industry.