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Asian sports confident of surviving money crisis

October 21, 2008 18:32 IST

Asian sports bosses remain confident they can ride out the global financial crisis despite conceding the region is not immune and they will have to start tightening their belts.

Leading officials from soccer, cricket, golf, rugby and the Olympics are already bracing themselves for the possible flow-on effects of the global financial meltdown.

However, while most administrators are adopting a cautious approach, they also believe the burgeoning Asian sports market is better placed to weather the storm than the more established American and European sports.

"The vast majority of sport in Asia is still amateur and the cost of the financial crisis [will] not mean anything for them," Asian football's most powerful man, AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam, said.

"For the time being I don't think any of these [major sporting] projects will be affected. But we must wait and see for the coming future how it develops."

Bin Hammam said the AFC are already prepared for any financial problems because they have begun reducing their own expenditure well before the market collapse.

"We have been facing these before the financial crisis. It started since the beginning of the year and not with the collapse of the markets," Bin Hammam said.

'SIGNED CONTRACTS'

"The cost of services went up sharply because of the increase in oil prices. It increased our operating costs by 40 per cent.

"[But] in terms of sponsorship and TV rights, these have not been affected and I don't anticipate that it will. We have signed contracts until 2012 and I don't see any chance of revenues from these going down."

The Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC) is also optimistic about its future with the sport currently enjoying a boom period in Asia.

Cricket is a hugely popular sport in India, which has already been awarded the co-hosting rights to the next World Cup in 2011 and is leading the push for the expansion of television-friendly Twenty20 competitions.

"The ICC has a number of long term commercial and broadcast agreements that we believe should stand it and the game of cricket in general in good stead during any potential downturn in economic conditions," an ICC spokesman said.

"Also, as a sport, it is possible to argue that the situation is slightly different from some other businesses in that people are still highly likely to watch and be interested in the game -- and therefore offer an attraction to potential sponsors and broadcasters -- despite that possible downturn."

'HEAVILY DEPENDENT'

Asian golf, a sport which has always been heavily dependent on financial institutions for sponsorship, is adopting a more wary outlook on the future.

The Asian tour has been steadily growing in recent years with the increase of popularity of the sport in China, India and Japan and plans to form a united Asian tour but golf's reliance on corporate support is worrying Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han.

"From our side the banks that are putting in money into our tour like Barclays for the Singapore Open, UBS for Hong Kong and HSBC, they haven't really been showing signs they want to back out," Han said.

"Their profile and clientele in Asia are pretty strong and I think they still have to make it better.

"In Asia, in terms of total sponsorships these events are still affordable. So hopefully, I don't think there should be that much of an impact."

Organisers of Tokyo's bid to stage the 2016 summer Olympics insist the crisis will have no effect on their plans. The Japanese capital is one of four cities shortlisted by the International Olympic Committee to stage the Games.

The other final candidates are Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. The winner will be announced in October 2009.

"Tokyo 2016 is financially robust, with strong local and central government guarantees," Tokyo bid leader Ichiro Kono said.

"The 2016 Games represent an outstanding opportunity for Japan to boost economic growth and are a wise investment that fits with the needs and the sustainable development project of the biggest city in the world."

In Australia, which has four football codes all competing in the same marketplace, administrators are already having second thoughts about their expansion plans.

Rugby union, rugby league, Australian Rules and soccer officials have all signalled their intentions to grow their own competitions but the sudden crisis has forced them to tread carefully in a congested market.

Rugby union, which receives most of its money from the television rights for the Tri-Nations and Super 14 competitions involving teams from New Zealand and South Africa, will be the first of the major football codes to renegotiate its broadcasting deal, at the end of this year.

The Australian Rugby Union has just re-signed its naming rights sponsor, Qantas, for a further four years but Frank Lowy, the chairman of the Football Federation of Australia and the country's second richest man, warned the slowdown would effect everyone in sport.

"The world has been living beyond its means, I think the world will have to contract," Lowy told Australian television.

"So will sport have to contract, it is as simple as that. There is only so much money to go around."

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