[Photo credit: Bleacher Report]
In 2017, Chinese clubs spent a record of $US 448 million on transfers, surpassing the spending of the biggest European leagues. The growing amount of investment in the Chinese football industry is a trend also reflected across Asia due to the increasing popularity of football amongst large populations enjoying dramatic economic growth. More and more world class football events are taking place such as The AFC Asian Cup that will be held in China in 2023 and it is anticipated to be “the biggest and most watched AFC Asian Cup in history.” As well, The AFF SUZUKI CUP, a biennial football competition organised by the ASEAN Football Federation, is also recognized as South East Asia’s most-watched football tournament.
Despite heavy investments in players and ambitious national objectives, development in Asia has remained slow (South Korea is the only Asian country to have got beyond the quarter-finals in the World Cup, and that was back in 2002), but the adoption of new technologies throughout all levels of the game promises to accelerate the plans APAC countries have for football development in the region.
According to a study by Torrens University, football accounted for 43% of the global sports industry market size. The PWC Sports Survey 2019 also stated that football tops traditional sports with the most potential global revenue growth from 2019-2024. In a survey conducted by Spring Data on Most Popular Sports in Asia, Football is the most popular sport among Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Football’s expansion in Asia will be further accelerated by the rapid growth of the global sports technology market that was valued at $9.8 billion in 2018 by Grand View Research. This sector is projected to grow globally at a CAGR of 20.3% from 2019 to 2025 with Asia growing even larger with a CAGR of 23% from 2019 to 2025 and will eventually reach $10.8 billion. GlobeNewswire also indicated that football is expected to hold the largest market share of the sports tech category in 2021. This trend will accelerate as 32% of the Premier League’s viewers are based in Asia, and a growing number of European leagues and teams are operating offices in the Asia Pacific including Juventus, PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund or Manchester United. All of these teams will need to leverage new sports technologies to become even more connected with their fans and grow their brands. Some far-sighted teams like PSG and Wolves have even partnered with Asian esports teams to promote their brands in Asia and extend their reach to the gaming community and attract new fans. (Read our recent article on Esports to understand the importance of this industry in Asia and how new sports technology will help accelerate this growth.)
At a grassroots level, there is increasing interest in the sport supported by urbanization, infrastructure development, health incentives and entertainment purposes. The number of amateur leagues and clubs is growing especially in East Asian countries. There is also an increasing amount of football infrastructure being built across the APAC region. China intends to open 50,000 football academies by 2025, with similar projects being undertaken in Thailand, India and Indonesia. Lastly, the APAC area is predicted to have the quickest increase in disposable income through to 2040 according to Euromonitor, along with research conducted by DaXue Consulting showing that “the Chinese middle class has been increasingly willing to pay more for higher quality fitness and lifestyle products.” This offers a fertile environment in the APAC region for football tech companies.
“The football potential in Asia is tremendous. Amateur players are passionate and have a desire to succeed. We are excited to be able to support the Clubs & FA’s to find, analyse and develop the future generation of talent.” Darren Peries, Founder of AiSCOUT
Technology has already established itself as an essential performance enhancer and organisational tool with professional teams employing technology ranging from sensors and cameras to AI technology. Adoption by amateur sides has been limited mainly due to cost restraints and a lack of familiarity with the technology. However, with cheaper and more intuitive products being released into the market, these technologies are becoming increasingly accessible to all levels of the game and ready to be deployed in APAC.
Widespread use of football technology can speed up football development in the APAC region in multiple ways:
- On the management side, technology can be utilized to improve organisational structures and reduce inefficiencies. Solutions like SportEasy or Joinly can streamline the membership and billing process along with providing enhanced data systems to efficiently manage revenue flow, member engagement and communication networks. For amateur sponsorship, one example is GoMyPartner, which offers incentives for restaurants, brands and other commercial entities to form a symbiotic partnership with clubs.
- For on-field performance, a major issue for the APAC football development is a shortage of well-trained and experienced coaches. Companies such as AiScout, Kinduct, Next11, or VEO have products that improve the quality of coaching and can act as a coaching ‘force multiplier’, enabling existing coaches to provide more and better coaching. For example, Kinduct provides an Athlete management system that collects data from all types of devices and streamlines the data management process through data visualisers, training programs, data consolidation and analytics so that coaches can measure and improve the performance of their athletes. Individual athletes can use wearable technologies with smart sensors to track data regarding players’ physical state, game metrics and field metrics, allowing athletes to see their weak areas and train accordingly. One example is Next11, which delivers unique live physical and technical scores for players during the game for the coach to be able to gauge instantly the performance of his team with accurate metrics and make the necessary adjustments. Whilst Veo’s sports camera is easy to setup and the durable camera is built for recording games. Features include analytics, simple editing software and live streaming, ideal for coaches to review games more efficiently
- Media and talent platforms are also essential to athletes, who can use applications like AiScout or Tonsser. The latter is a social media platform for users to track their stats and upload clips which are viewable by professionals, clubs and other interested parties. This streamlines the scouting process and allows athletes to participate more directly in developing their careers.
“The collection of live technical and physical data in amateur football will be able to support the coaches with a “smart assistant”. As for the players, technology like ours will definitely boost the acceleration of their development. Next11 is looking to empower the next generation of Asian players.” Nikolaj Thomassen, Founder of Next11
In conclusion, as sports technology further innovates and becomes more accessible, there is a great opportunity in the APAC region for sports technology companies to partner with football and other sports organisations at all levels and play a major role in accelerating the explosive growth of sports throughout Asia.
Technology adoption in football is not as prevalent in Asia compared to Europe and North America, but associations, clubs and players are definitely looking for tools that digitally transform the experience and help engagement on and off the field.