Barclays Asia Trophy 2015

Singapore the winner

Ross Barkley scoring Everton's consolation goal against Arsenal in their 1-3 loss in the Barclays Asia Trophy final on Saturday night, as fans enjoyed the carnival-like atmosphere.
Ross Barkley scoring Everton's consolation goal against Arsenal in their 1-3 loss in the Barclays Asia Trophy final on Saturday night, as fans enjoyed the carnival-like atmosphere.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Connection between EPL teams and fans a key reason why both sides want an encore

After a week when attendance records were broken, social media went into overdrive and fans were left thirsting for more, the Barclays Asia Trophy show left town on Saturday. But it may well be back here for an encore.

Richard Scudamore - chief executive of the Premier League, which runs the biennial competition - hailed the success of this year's tournament, saying: "I know (the teams) were blown away by the reception that they received from fans and the people of the Lion City.

"Singapore has given us every reason to seriously consider returning in the near future."

Scudamore's optimism stems in part from the record turnout as a total of 81,974 fans showed up over the two match days, shattering the tournament's previous high of 76,336 set during the 2007 edition in Hong Kong.

The 52,107 fans who showed up at the National Stadium on Saturday was also a record for both the venue and the competition as winners Arsenal, Everton, the Singapore Selection and Stoke City lit up Kallang.

Indeed, fans praised the event's smooth organisation and fringe activities, from an open training session to the meet-and-greet sessions, which brought them closer to their idols.

Said Manchester United fan Gregory Koh, 20: "The tournament was exciting and well-run. Fan engagement overall was good. I would watch this again. I thought the ticket prices were reasonable, and the record crowd spoke for itself."

Arsenal fan Jeremiah Samson, 18, added: "It is everyone's dream to see their idols live and beats watching them on television... hopefully, Singapore can host more matches like these."

Although tickets for Saturday's final were priced at $145 for a Category 1 seat and $45 in Category 4, fans are not complaining

Said Everton fan Suntharauadivelu, 44: "It's worth the money. The matches were quite entertaining, and it's also nice to see Singapore playing well. We should have more of such sporting events to add interest for the younger generation."

The tournament, which is funded and organised by the EPL, also benefited the Singapore economy.

The tourism sector received a boost, as fans from as far as the United States and England joined in.

Deloitte deputy clients and markets leader James Walton said: "The main boost in tourism comes from other South-east Asian fans because these fans will not mind paying for a two-hour flight to come to Singapore, have a short holiday here to see the sights and follow their team."

The tournament also put Singapore in the international spotlight. Leading footballers with millions of followers posted pictures of themselves and Singapore landmarks on social media. The footballing world also hung on the words of players and managers here, with every statement made making its way around the world in minutes.

With the global eye on Singapore, Arsenal seized the opportunity to hold a global launch of their new away kit at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, where 600 fans added to the atmosphere.

The Gunners also made store appearances at VivoCity and Kallang Wave Mall, and at fan parties.

Eric Ong, president of the 660-strong Official Arsenal Singapore Supporters Club, noted that it is more meaningful to both club and players to stay here for almost a week, as opposed to staying a day or two to play a one-off match. It just made the experience better for both fan and club, he said.

He added: "The club made an effort to organise more activities, which was great for fans."

  • Additional reporting by Lok Weng Seng, Jeremy Lim, and Low Jay Sen
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore the winner'. Print Edition | Subscribe