MP & Silva plans more tournaments for Lions
Excitement is building towards the 2015 South-east Asia Games, which Singapore will host in June.
One of the biggest draws of the Games will be Singapore's Under-23 men's football team's bid to win gold for the first time.
The Barclays Asia Trophy will then hit town in July, with English Premiership sides Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City, along with a local side featuring mostly national players, vying for the top prize at the National Stadium.
Andrea Radrizzani and his team aim to make the local football calendar even busier.
The chief executive of the MP & Silva Group, an international sports media rights company, met up with The New Paper earlier in the week and, while he declined to reveal names, Radrizzani said next year's Chinese New Year period will see a tournament involving the Singapore national team and other nations.
And in July, the Lions will be involved in a quadrangular similar to the Emirates Cup that Arsenal organise as part of their annual pre-season calendar.
This quadrangular will be hosted by Singapore and another regional city, with Kuala Lumpur already tabled as a possibility.
These events will be an annual feature on the Lions' schedule, with a year-end match involving celebrity players in a proposed Asia-versus-Europe format an added feature, if the Italian has his way.
Last month, MP & Silva signed a six-year, $25-million deal with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the agreement means it will manage the global media rights of the Lions as well as the various national age-group squads.
Firing his opening salvo in the interview with TNP, Radrizzani asked this reporter: "Do you like football?"
Almost immediately, he fired back his own response: "That's the answer. The value of English Premier League rights is $80 million a year - that's a clear picture of how important football is here (in Singapore).
"I hope to see more value invested in local football, with more people coming out to experience it on the ground."
For a start, Radrizzani wants to lure the average football fan, fed on a diet of the high-octane version of the sport in Europe and beyond, with what that fan knows - big teams, with big names.
Strange as it may sound, he wants to use global stars as conduits, to help the average Singapore fan get closer to the likes of Khairul Amri and Safuwan Baharudin.
"We want to create more excitement around and more engagement with the national team," he said.
"With a constant number of events, we want to create a football fiesta, a festival around these events, and bring people to the stadium, to see good football - and their own national team."
Radrizzani speaks of long-term planning as key.
With the Argentina national team available only in 2016 and their English counterparts having slots in their calendar from 2017, the six-year deal with the FAS allows MP & Silva to step away from the myopic, opportunistic nature of organising matches, and paves the way to lure renowned teams here.
It also wants to ensure that these events have enough fringe activities to keep fans coming back.
Dates blocked out by Fifa for international friendlies in June, October and November are slots available for MP & Silva to bring in national sides to spar with the Lions.
Radrizzani admitted that the deal struck with the FAS comes with substantial risk to MP & Silva.
And it's not just the $25m price tag.
"In terms of media rights, I'm confident of my skills. Of course, that is our core business, but this is a challenge," he said.
"We know organising events will be very difficult, because we've never done this before. You can organise a very good event but, if people don't come, it's a loss.
"But I'm excited. For me, this is the whole point of my job - if I was afraid of risk, I'd open a pizzeria."
MP & Silva is committed to linking talented young footballers here with its network in Europe, but Radrizzani asserted that it is a project that will be driven by the FAS and its technical department.
"Our role is to facilitate relationships with the technical department here and other parties, it is up to them (FAS) to find the players who are ready," he said.
"But it is nice to see (Safuwan) score that goal for Melbourne City last week, and the response here. We need more of this."
Having experienced local football, Radrizzani believes crowd engagement can be improved and, like any football-mad Italian, he thinks he's a bit of an expert at the game, insisting he's spotted weaknesses among local players tactically.
"Football is in my blood, it's in my soul," he said, pointing to his youth, growing up with three newspaper dailies and four television channels centred on the sport in his native Italy.
"Every fan believes he's a coach... and that kind of passion and familiarity is what we hope to see Singapore fans have for their own team."
"Singapore’s Formula 1 race is an event that you cannot miss, that’s how strong a message they send. We want to create a similar strong message for football. I’m very excited about this very big challenge we have, and I know that if we can do what we want to, I will be very proud at the end of it."
- Andrea Radrizzani, MP & Silva Group CEO
- Argentina (2016) and England (2017) on the radar for friendlies, when the teams are available
- Chinese New Year Cup - Tournament hosted by the Lions against other national sides
- Mid-year quadrangular - Quadrangular similar to Arsenal's Emirates Cup, hosted by Singapore and another regional city, perhaps Kuala Lumpur
- Year-end celebrity football match, possibly in an Asia-versus-Europe format
- International friendlies on Fifa dates in June, October and November
- Fringe activities to create a festival atmosphere and draw fans, especially children, to the stadium
- Content creation, centred on the national team, and maybe even the LionsXII, that will feature player bios and behind-the-scenes type videos to endear players to the public
Andrea and MP & Silva
- PHOTO COURTESY OF MP & SILVA
Born in Milan in 1974, Andrea Radrizzani co-founded MP & Silva with Riccardo Silva in 2004.
He (above) has played a key role in the company's growth and success since 2007, when MP & Silva started its global expansion from its Singapore office.
He was personally involved in most of MP & Silva's work with rights holders of major sports properties like the English Premier League, Fifa World Cup, Uefa, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Formula 1 and the Olympic Council of Asia.
The group's business strategy and special expansion projects are now his key focus as MP & Silva group chief executive.