News | Community centre to City's global plans

Singapore – Manchester City opened an office in Singapore this week with the super rich Premier League outfit insistent they were in the wealthy citystate to help Southeast Asian football thrive rather than just make profit.

The four-times English champions joined Borussia Dortmund, Valencia and Chelsea in having an office in Singapore, a commercial hub replete with the world’s biggest brands and with a public obsessed with all things European football.

But such enthusiasm has come at the expense of the local game, where attendances in the local S.League continue to nosedive amid talk the poorly marketed 10-team competition could be disbanded.

Officials of the City Football Group, who own Manchester City, Melbourne City, New York City and have a share in Yokohama F.Marinos in Japan, said they wanted to share knowledge with domestic stakeholders rather than crush competition.

“We feel responsibility to give back to the community. Manchester City was founded as a community club and we have that at the heart of everything we do,” Commercial Director of City Football Marketing Omar Berrada told Reuters.

“We are hearing ‘how can you help us, how can we benefit from your know how and help us grow,’ and we are more than willing to do this.

“I think we can do a lot. Can we work with different countries around the world, different local clubs to help them be able to benefit from City’s best practices? Definitely.”

City Group marketing and communications head Toby Craig said 97 percent of Manchester City fans lived outside of the United Kingdom, with 80 million in Southeast Asia, a region clearly of importance to them and others.

City’s rivals Manchester United have an official male shampoo partner for Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam and have led the way in maximising commercial opportunities.

City, bought by Abu Dhabi owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2008, have stepped up their drive, playing matches in Vietnam and Malaysia in recent years and boasting Malay and Indonesian language sections on their official website.

In Indonesia, domestic football is on hold while the country serves a FIFA ban leaving local fans looking elsewhere for their football fill and media, marketing and tech savvy European clubs are only too happy to oblige with clever region specific campaigns.

City, though, said local football needs to be successful in order to help them.

The idea that European football’s growth, and the marketing behemoth of the Premier League, will eventually bring an end to local Southeast Asian football was untrue.

“It really doesn’t have to. It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive,” said Berrada, who formerly worked with Barcelona.

“On the contrary, we think it’s beneficial on the whole for football everywhere to develop and the domestic leagues to be strong.”

Craig agreed, saying local football was the gateway to a love of the international game and foreign clubs.

“Nothing about anything we are doing is trying to undermine local leagues,” he said. “Without local thriving leagues you don’t have those touch points when you’re growing up, those emotional moments, you can’t get that through foreign products.”

Having taken on three clubs in the last two years the City Group were focussing on establishing them rather than extending their portfolio just yet, but said expansion was inevitable.

“Club acquisition sure will be part of it in the future,” Craig said.

“The model will grow in time, you can acquire 10 clubs but if they are not performing then the model is not valid.”

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