Football: EPL side Cardiff City's tour of Malaysia cancelled because of the haze

LONDON (REUTERS) - English Premier League newcomers Cardiff City, looking to grow their brand awareness ahead of a possible IPO, have cancelled their six-day promotional tour of Malaysia this week because of the air pollution crisis in South-east Asia.

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay and forward Craig Bellamy were among a party of club representatives who were due to conduct promotional activities in Kuala Lumpur from Thursday.

Last month, Reuters exclusively reported that Malaysian billionaire owner Vincent Tan was exploring an IPO of the team after they sealed promotion to football's lucrative English Premier League.

Tan, who owns 36.1 per cent of the club and is the former chairman of conglomerate Berjaya Group, said the cancellation of the tour was a missed opportunity.

"A schedule of events had been put in place ahead of the opening Premier League fixtures, further raising awareness of Cardiff City Football Club in Malaysia," Tan said in a statement on the Welsh club's website on Tuesday.

"However, due to the current poor air quality in Kuala Lumpur, it has been decided for the welfare of all concerned to delay the trip, re-establishing plans in the future when the manager and players can better interact with Malaysian-based supporters in a suitable environment."

Kuala Lumpur remained shrouded in haze on Wednesday as the environmental crisis continued after a week of thick hazardous smog covered Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore.

While Cardiff opted against breathing in the poor air, local matches have continued to be played in Malaysia despite hazardous pollution readings and warnings.

"It is unhealthy, especially, for athletes, who train intensively. Prolonged exposure could cause cell mutations leading to cancer," National Sports Institute (NSI) chief executive officer Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz told Malaysia's New Straits Times daily on Wednesday.

Dr Ramlan said it was unhealthy to play matches if the Air Pollution Index (API) was over 100 and the paper said Tuesday's Super League match between PKNS and Selangor went ahead on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur despite a reading of 252.

English Premier League side Chelsea are due to play an exhibition match in Malaysia next month, while Spanish champions Barcelona will also play a friendly in Kuala Lumpur in August.