This week we have decided to sit down with Adrian New for a few minutes and discuss several topics. New is the Director of Football Initiatives at AIA and we wanted to hear a little bit more about his background and take a sneak peek at what he has to say about the football industry in general.
Adrian New will be one of the speakers in World Football Summit Asia.
You have been involved in the football industry for a long time. Can you tell us a little bit more about your experience, where do you come from and where you are now?
I have covered the whole spectrum. I came to Asia in 2001 after working with VISA in sponsorships. I moved to a company called World Sport Group and through them I worked on the AFC properties for five years, where I was head of sales. After that, I joined Chelsea FC as managing director in Asia and I was responsible for the commercial activities in Asia.
Since the beginning of 2016 I have been working at AIA, where I manage the partnership with Tottenham Hotspur.
The Asian Football industry has evolved largely in the past few years. We have seen a big number of Asian countries investing in their national leagues and sport facilities. Asia has also invested a great amount of money in buying players from European leagues to improve their own national ones. You’ve been in the center of this evolution. How did it happen?
I am probably biased towards the Premier League, but I think that as the platform has grown, viewership has grown a lot. The resonance football has across Asia has increased.
If you go back to 2001, when I arrived here, The Premier league didn’t have a particularly strong platform in Asia and it was probably pretty much unknown in India. The Premier League made great efforts to increase the platform while keeping the product strong. There has always been a level of interest in football here, but it is now growing rapidly.
Do you think it’s possible that Asian leagues reach the quality of the Europeans one day? After all the money that is being invested, the aim is probably to compete with the greatest teams in the world. For instance, the strikers in Vissel Kobe, with Iniesta, Villa and Podolski, could compete with the attackers of many European top teams.
The general quality of the Asian leagues is still far from the European ones. Outside of Japan and Korea, people are more interested in European football than they are in their own national leagues.
That’s beginning to change. Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand can get huge crowds, but European football still leads the way. I work in 18 different countries and in almost all of them football is the number one sport.
Countries such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia have appeared on the radar of football fans around the globe. These were countries that had nothing (or close to nothing) to do with football, but now are main actors in the picture of the international football industry. Is the Asian football industry going to keep investing in Europe consistently? Should they keep putting money in Europe to maintain themselves in the picture?
I would prefer to see them grow their own players rather than keep buying top players from European leagues. If you look at China, where the president put a lot of emphasis in building football schools for children, the problem I see is that their parents weren’t used to football. Now, with the new generation growing up around football, kids are being encouraged to follow football as a career rather than as a hobby. The more they can do that, like it’s starting to happen in Indonesia and Malaysia, the better their local leagues will get.
In the meantime, while Asia has been investing in the European football in different fields, such as the sponsorship of stadiums or the buying of clubs like PSG and Manchester City, Europe has also turned to Asia. The percentage of money invested has been growing consistently over the past few years. How can Europe grow their fan base in countries like Malaysia, India or Qatar?
I have seen the number of European academies here grow rapidly. Ajax has an academy, LaLiga too; Real Madrid has a partnership with another one… I don’t know if they are going to put money directly into buying clubs, but they’re investing a lot of time and money into the development of players, thus making Asian football grow. They are helping in the development of talents on a day-to-day basis.
In April, World Football Summit will celebrate its first event in Asia. Hundreds of decision makers, clubs and federations are expected to attend. What’s the importance of events like WFS in the industry and what do you expect to achieve there?
I think it’s important that the world of sport comes together to share experiences and opportunities. There aren’t many places here in Asia where you can meet so many people from the industry. The opportunity to meet the top of the people in the football industry is fantastic and we should keep learning from each other.
To me, that’s the key benefit to the summit.
If you want to hear more about what Adrian New has to say about the hot topics of the football industry and Asia, you can find him at the World Football Summit in Kuala Lumpur on the 29th and 30th of April.