Will Villa become Midland's football brand in Asia?

English Premier League club Aston Villa may have taken steps towards becoming the West Midland's football worldwide brand after Chief Executive Richard FitzGerald attended the Western Asian Dubai International Sports Conference where he gave a presentation on executive managers' responsibilities as well as ’selling’ Villa. "Premiership football is hugely popular in Asia but only the ‘big four’ of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have really tapped into the market there," reported local newspaper Express & Star under the heading "Villa plan to take on big four."

FitzGerald, who was invited to attend by Dubai Sports Council General Secretary Dr Ahmad Al Sherief, said that while there was "no real agenda" to his visit it was "about building contacts for the next 12 to 18 months, and agent relationships, both in the short and the long term. This is also potentially the place for a mid-season break. A lot of teams come here and play reasonably lucrative friendlies. And a lot of global companies who we could become partners with are here,” he said.

"It is about getting our brand out there. The message is that we have Martin O'Neill and we have ambitions. And we are going to say that we are doing things properly. It was well received. I think Aston Villa is a well-known brand anyway. We are not top, top yet in terms of the Premiership but this was just about reminding people. I think people were intrigued, but of course it is all about the football and what happens on the pitch. But the Premier League is perceived as high value," he told Bill Howell of the Birmingham Mail.

In his article England's Goal Rush, on the Premiership's global thrust, Time magazine's Adam Smith commented that "building a brand in Asia and other foreign markets may not seem such a stretch, even for relatively small clubs." He added that analysts are impressed: "If a club hasn't got a high profile or heaps of cash, building relationships in the local market is a cost-effective way to build brand awareness and suit longer-term Asian sensibilities," he quoted Geoffrey Gold, CEO of Football Dynamics Asia, East Asian-based consultants.