La Liga looks to Asian market

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SINGAPORE - Spain's La Liga will change kick-off times and play a pre-season tournament in Asia in a bid to muscle in on the success of England's Premier League in the region.

La Liga CEO Francisco Roca Perez (pictured) told reporters on the sidelines of the Soccerex Asian forum in Singapore that some 17 matches would be brought forward in the 2010/11 season to increase exposure for Spanish teams in Asia.

English sides, and in particular Manchester United and Liverpool, enjoy phenomenal support in southeast Asia and La Liga is determined to get a slice of the action in a region viewed as a prime market to develop a lucrative fan base.

"Our objective is to be one of the prominent leagues in this part of the world," Perez said, adding that changing game times in Spain was essential for success.

"It is a sport that takes some effort to change things and especially kick-off times, which is always something very sensitive.

"Teams don't like to change their ways and their traditions but I truly believe that the understanding is that this is a huge opportunity and there is no other way."

Perez earlier announced the introduction of the International LFP Cup, an annual tournament to begin next year and feature three Spanish sides and one local team in an as yet unnamed southeast Asian country.

WORST RECESSION

Perez said the time was right for the moves into Asia with Spanish football enjoying the acclaim from the recent World Cup success in South Africa while club administrators struggle badly with the country enduring its worst recession for 50 years.

Cash-strapped Real Mallorca have been banned from competing in this season's Europa League and an audit of champions Barcelona's accounts revealed a loss of nearly $100 million for the 2009/10 season.

Despite the league attracting the sport's finest players, such as Barca's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, other methods of expanding revenue opportunities are required.

While Perez acknowledged that Spanish heavyweights Barca and Real would continue to pursue their own methods for making gains in Asia he was optimistic they would appear in a later edition of the LFP Cup.

"It is realistic, it is not going to happen the first year, probably won't happen in the second year, but why not?"

Perez, who has been in his role with the league for five years after a number of roles with the National Basketball Association, said he thought this drive to increase brand awareness should have been done sooner.

"Our admiration for what the Premier League has done (in Asia) is huge but what we see is an additional opportunity for the Spanish clubs and the Spanish league," he added.

"Our objective is not to go ahead of the Premier League ... our objective is to be one of the prominent leagues in this part of the world and I think because of the level of football we play in the Spanish league we ought to be."

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