ManU still leader in 'close to saturated' Asia

Quoted by James Ducker in The Times, Manchester United's commercial director, Andy Anson, suggests that the growing Asian football market may be "close to saturation point’ as English Premiership and other European clubs try to cash in. ManU were the first to take advantage by tapping into a number of Asian markets and others quickly followed suit. Of ManU’s estimated global fan base of 75 million, 40.7 million live in Asia and Australia.

Ducker commented that, following the signing of South Korea's Park Ji Sung, ManU "can expect a huge benefit from shirt sales bearing Park’s name alone. South Korea is still relatively new territory for Premiership clubs, but Park’s presence will push viewing figures for televised matches through the roof."

In China's tiny Hong Kong region, "the chain of Red Cafes and Megastores is the fruit of eight years of hard labour [and] United now have between 10,000 and 15,000 club credit cards circulating."

In Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, ManU has "an estimated 4.7 million devoted supporters in these parts" but "given the lack of disposable income and the massive counterfeit market in these countries, Premiership clubs make their money here by touring."

It has not all been one-way traffic, however, Ducker commented, "The formation of the [English] Premiership helped to trigger a boom in Asian football that resulted in the creation of the J-League in Japan in 1993 and the S.League in Singapore two years later. South Korea’s K-League, which compromised only five teams when it formed in 1983, now boasts 13 clubs."