Mabbutt: Spurs out to leave legacy in Asia

SINGAPORE - Long-term commitment is the strategy of Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur as they begin a development programme in Singapore which aims to discover new talent and strengthen football in Asia.

Headed by former Spurs captain and England international Gary Mabbutt, the nine-day course brings coaches from the North London club to help Tottenham find the leading lights of the future but also to educate players and trainers in Singapore.

"I think it is quite a brave decision by Tottenham because it is quite easy to use your name to go around the world and collect a payday," Mabbutt told Reuters at the Jalan Besar stadium on Sunday.

"But what we are trying to do is bring the coaches we use at home and bring those same standards where we go. We are trying to make a serious development programme.

"If we get a player that comes through from Asia who is good enough to come and play for Tottenham Hotspur then great, but if not the work we are doing will leave a long-lasting legacy."

The course, which is likely to extend to other Asia nations, had been endorsed by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) which ratified the aims of the project, Mabbutt said before he started a session with some local underprivileged children.

FAN BASE

"Asia is an up-and-coming area; certainly the coverage of the Premier League makes a big difference. We have a 20-million fan base abroad and 10 million are in Asia so commercially it's a viable prospect as well," Mabbutt said.

Spurs are not the first Premier League club to try to tap the Asian market, which provides an estimated one billion viewers of the league. Manchester United and Liverpool have played matches in the region but the reception of teams has been mixed.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has previously expressed concern about European teams' commercial tours of the region, particularly while its own competitions such as the Asian Cup were being run.

However, Mabbutt, a diabetic who captained Tottenham for more than a decade and lifted the 1991 FA Cup, believes that Spurs' strategy of concentrating first on helping the nations they visit is right for Tottenham, who have launched similar projects in Africa and South America.

"We do not think that because of who we are we can just turn up, collect the money and be invited back, the world is different now. That may have happened a decade ago but now it's not the case.

"I think now it has to be a sustained programme that is going to be able to offer longevity, It may come back with some commercial benefit but there is no hidden agenda; we have set up relationships but we have to deliver first and foremost."