Commercial tours: Sunshine, facilities ... and cash

Even Arsenal and Wenger have fallen for the long-haul lure of an Asian summer jolly, seeking to grow fan bases in a fat market

The Premier League may not (yet) have their 39th game – the controversial proposal to play one full set of matches abroad each season – but over the next five weeks the gospel is nevertheless being spread far and wide.

Click HERE to view graphic (138 kb)

In that period, clubs will be playing more than 40 games on five continents, balancing the sometimes contradictory needs of managers and commercial directors. The former group want to prepare their players for the new season, using good facilities; the latter want to sell shirts and increase what they would probably call "brand awareness". This year, the places to sell that brand are the United States and Asia.

Both Manchester clubs are heading to North America, but it is significant that Chelsea and Arsenal, the other two members of last season's top four, are going to Asia, where Barclays will host their biennial four-team tournament. Arsenal's trip to Malaysia and China is clearly commercially driven – after years of holding out, their manager, Arsène Wenger, has agreed to go. His preference has always been for a training camp in Austria and a couple of gentle matches against local sides, followed by the Emirates Cup at home and a warm-up or two away to stronger European opposition.

Now, however, Wenger says: "For a long time I resisted, but as the Premier League becomes more and more a world league, it's important we develop our fan-base as well. China is a massive country where football is developing and the Premier League is a world brand. You do not want to miss out in a country where you have so many potential fans." The new reality is emphasised by the club's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, who says: 'It's an important step. We enjoy huge support in Asia and this will help bring the club closer to our fans in both countries. We want to develop partnerships with major corporations out there."

Chelsea have usually favoured the US, Jose Mourinho being a fan of the facilities and climate, but Andre Villas-Boas's first game against Premier League opposition will be in Hong Kong on 30 July, against Aston Villa or Blackburn in the Barclays Asia Trophy. Chelsea are returning for the first time since winning the first such competition, in 2003, when Roman Abramovich had just taken over and was signing players throughout the tournament. "It's important for the club to expand its brand in the Asian market," Villas-Boas said.

Villa have been to Hong Kong for a sevens tournament and their head of marketing, Russell Jones, knows the potential: "We are taking part because it is a prestigious tournament which has been hugely successful in the past. But we are also looking to extend our reach beyond these shores. The digital era has enabled the club to interact and build relationships with a global fanbase, and Hong Kong is among the world's leaders when it comes to technology. It is a market with a strong allegiance to the Premier League and a highly technologically savvy population, serving as a fantastic gateway into wider Asia."

North America has long been a popular destination, not least because commercial and footballing interests coexist. There is an enthusiasm for the English game as well as excellent training facilities in a suitable climate. Last summer six Premier League clubs went there. This time the Manchester clubs and Bolton return, joined by Everton, Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion. Albion's assistant sporting and technical director, Andy Marriott, says: "It's important that Roy [Hodgson] and the players have top-notch facilities to work at and the ones we've acquired are second to none. They were built for use by the teams who competed at the 1994 World Cup finals and have since been utilised by Premier League clubs and other international sides."

Albion will be based near Santa Barbara in California for nine days and in Portland, Oregon for three days, playing three friendlies. "The Major League Soccer teams we will be facing are good sides who will be in the middle of their season when we play them," Marriott said. "They promise to be competitive games against teams who play a British style of football."

Whether or not many new Baggies fans are to be found wandering around in the famous navy and white stripes, football considerations appear to take priority. Newcastle hope to shift some stripes of a darker hue in Kansas City, Columbus and Orlando. Manchester's two powerhouses, although they will not play each other – that pleasure is deferred until the Community Shield at Wembley on 7 August – compete under the banner of the Herbalife Challenge, a loose structure involving Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona (who will meet United in a low-key repeat of the Champions' League final).

Last year Everton, like Blackburn, made the trek to Australia, but David Moyes is another US enthusiast. Tottenham are the only club heading for South Africa, where they have an academy and charitable interests, while Sunderland will go to Germany. Stoke will spend six days at altitude in Irdning, Austria, where England prepared for the World Cup last summer, but will play no matches. Apart from training in Ireland, Wolves are staying at home, with visits to lower-division teams and Celtic and then a friendly at home to Spanish opposition. Of the newcomers, Queens Park Rangers will go to Italy and Swansea will announce a destination this week. For Norwich, visits to Crystal Palace and Coventry are as exotic as it gets.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments