HONG KONG: English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur are certain to play in Malaysia under the terms of their new sponsorship agreement with the Hong Kong-based American International Assurance (AIA) Group Ltd.
The AIA Group have been given a free hand to pick and choose the locations for Tottenham to hold their training programmes and playing tours in the Asian Pacific region for the next five years.
AIA Group chief executive and president Mark Tucker confirmed that Malaysia will definitely be one of Tottenham’s stopovers.
The AIA Group signed on as Tottenham’s major sponsorship partner for five seasons beginning from the 2014-15 season. Apart from carrying the AIA brand on their shirts in all competitions, the London-based football club have also agreed to bring their first team to play in this region and also send their coaches to conduct a series of junior training programmes for underprivileged children.
“We have not sat down and finalised the details yet but Tottenham Hotspur are sure to come to Malaysia. I don’t know when but it will most probably be sooner rather than later,” said Tucker after signing the sponsorship deal, which runs up to the 2018-19 season.
“AIA have a strong presence and commitment in Malaysia. There is also a huge support for Tottenham in the country and we will hold football development programmes there as well.”
Besides Malaysia, AIA are likely to also pick their home base Hong Kong and both China and Indonesia, where Tottenham have the biggest fan bases outside England, to host the Londoners.
Tucker added that AIA will only consider countries where they are operating or have business interests for the Tottenham playing tours and junior training programmes.
AIA currently operates or have business interests in 17 countries in the region – Hong Kong, Malaysia, China, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Macau, Brunei, Sri Lanka, India and Myanmar.
Prior to signing the five-year deal, AIA were a minor shirt partner for Tottenham for the current season, with the Premier League outfit carrying the insurance company’s logo on their shirts only for the Cup competitions.
Said Tucker: “We had a good relationship with Tottenham over the past nine months as a shirt partner and when the opportunity arose, we decided to take the partnership to the next level.
“No other sport gives us the global exposure provided by the English Premier League, which broadcasters estimate has a 4.7bil worldwide audience in a season.”
Tottenham executive chairman Daniel Levy described the partnership with AIA as an opportunity to grow the club’s support in Asia.
“Asia accounts for the largest growing supporters’ market for us, and the Premier League is very huge here. We believe that we have found the right partnership with AIA, and will be using their expertise in the region to increase the support for Tottenham, especially among the youths,” said Levy.
Asked if he has any plans to sign a high-profile Asian player to boost the club’s popularity in the region, Levy said: “There is commercial benefit to be gained from signing an Asian player for the team. But, regardless where they come from, it is important that we sign the right player who will strengthen the squad.”
There are no Asian players in Tottenham’s first-team squad now.