Barcelona defends commercial tour for "100M" fans

Spanish Primera Liga club Barcelona has again defended its pre-season Asian promotional firendlies. "The tour gives the team a unique way to maintain contact with more than 100 million Barca fans on the continent," the club said in a statement quoted by AFP before the team departed for Beijing. The number of Barcelona supporters in China has gone up six-fold in the last three years and seven-fold in the same period in Japan, the statement said. The exhibition matches will be broadcast on local television in China and Japan with the rights to the games sold to a further 70 countries around the world.

Barcelona and arch-rivals Real Madrid top the list of the world's biggest football clubs based on revenue. The club managed a net profit of 6.8 million euros (US$9.3 million) last season, based on overall income of 290.1 million euros. About half of its business merchandising revenues are now earned abroad while nearly 77 percent of its television audiences are outside Spain, the club said.