Hammam: English clubs must scratch Asia's back

LONDON - English Premier League clubs looking to boost their revenues in Asia need to give something back to the region, Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam believes.

The head of the Asian Football Confederation and recently re-elected FIFA executive committee member said he welcomed the growing number of clubs playing close-season matches in countries like Thailand, China and Singapore but also had concerns.

"Asia doesn't benefit much from these tours," he told reporters on Wednesday after addressing the Soccerex Forum at Wembley.

"We have to benefit from our potential. Europe has maybe exhausted the possibilities at home and have to look to another market and they have come to Asia.

"That is the potential continent, not CONCACAF (North and Central America), Africa or CONMEBOL (South America). Asia is the future not just for Asia but all football in the future."

Asked if he was worried at the ranks of Asian children wearing English club shirts would undermine the potential support for local teams, he said: "The clubs have got a right to promote themselves but the youth of our region has to get something out of supporting these clubs.

"What we want, and they are in the process of responding, is a plan to help the countries where there is an interest.

"It's not necessarily money - they have to provide technical assistance, coach exchanges, youth teams being brought to training camps in England. There are lots of ways they can do something."

On a national level he said the prospects of an Asian country challenging for the World Cup remained a long way away.

"We need a good 15 or 20 years," he said. "At every World Cup we are going to produce better quality football but we are not at a stage to win it yet.

"There is a lot of development taking place and the talent is there I believe but we've never had a proper structure to develop players or competitions.

"We have to develop clubs before we think about anything else."

Bin Hammam addressed the Soccerex forum five years ago when he outlined his "Vision Asia" to develop the game in his region and said progress had been made but it remained a long term plan.

"It's about developing all aspects of football - professional and grass roots," he said when addressing the forum, a collection of stakeholders in the business of the game.

"We have become much more active in developing football in rural areas but some national associations are limited in how far they can stretch themselves.

"We have helped them pass on some of their responsibilities to district and city associations and they have established leagues and competitions - 28 cities in China have done this.

"We are creating an environment for fans to watch live football every week."