'EPL teams will take Barclays Asia Trophy seriously'
EPL director Masters says July's Barclays Asia Trophy will be 'fast-paced and competitive'
Any suggestion that the three English Premier League teams would be taking things lightly in Singapore's sweltering heat during July's Barclays Asia Trophy was quickly squashed yesterday by Richard Masters, sales and marketing director for the English Premier League.
There has been an uproar among the Malaysian "Ultras" fans over the postponement of their domestic league matches to accommodate friendly matches between a Malaysia Select XI and Tottenham (May 24) and Liverpool (July 24) - but Masters insists that events like the Barclays Asia Trophy are not simply a holiday jaunt for the English clubs.
"I don't think it's fair to say that there's going to be 'holiday football' dished out at the National Stadium," said Masters, at the launch of the four-team event at the Floating Platform yesterday.
"It's not the Barclays Premier League, it's the Barclays Asia Trophy, (but) my experience is that the clubs do go for it.
"You can expect fast-paced, competitive football. These are competitive matches - they're playing for a real trophy. So you can expect a slice of the Premier League at the Singapore Sports Hub."
The Barclays Asia Trophy will see Everton take on Stoke on July 15, while Arsenal face a Singapore Select XI - led by former LionsXII and Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy - on the same day.
The final and the third-place play-off games are on July 18.
The biennial competition began in 2003 in Malaysia and has since been staged in Thailand (2005), China (2009) and Hong Kong (2007, 2011 and 2013).
With no World Cup or European Championship commitments this year, the three Premier League clubs are expected to bring their first-team squads, with stars such as Germany's Mesut Oezil, Chilean hotshot Alexis Sanchez, Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and English starlets Ross Barkley and John Stones in the teams' line-ups.
Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin said that he was confident the Premier League teams will be at their best, given that the July tournament is just weeks away from the mid-August EPL kick-off.
"If the tournament were in June, I'd be a bit more sceptical, but the organisers are confident and I think the English teams will be ramped up for this," he said.
OTHER EVENTS TOO
"Also, if our boys can up their game and raise the competition themselves, it will make the English teams take it more seriously.
"So it's also down to our Singapore Selection side, in front of 55,000 fans."
During the press conference, Masters highlighted that the clubs are in town not just for two matches, but to also try and make an impact on the local football scene.
"There is a whole programme of events being planned when the teams are here," he said.
"I can't reveal anything yet, but we are working with the Singapore (Football Association) on this," he said.
"Clubs are looking to bring their coaches out to work with local football. There will be more details on this shortly."
Speaking to The New Paper, Masters, who has been with the Premier League since 2006, said it had always been the ambition of the Barclays Asia Trophy to come to Singapore.
"Before, (Singapore) didn't have a stadium - now you do," he explained.
"We actually met with some of the National Stadium representatives in Hong Kong two years ago.
"To come here, where there's such a big, passionate following of the Premier League, makes perfect sense.
"We've been to Hong Kong thrice and there's no reason not to come back here if the tournament is successful."
Tickets on sale today
Tickets for the Barclays Asia Trophy are on sale from today at 10am, with more than 90,000 tickets available for the two matchdays.
The biennial tournament, to be played at the 55,000-seater National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub, features English Premier League sides Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City.
A Singapore Select XI make up the four-team field.
Each ticket is valid for both matches on each matchday - July 15 and July 18.
Ticket prices for July 15 range from $25 (Cat 4, child) to $145 (Cat 1). For the event's final day on July 18, it ranges from $28 to $155.
About 70 per cent of the tickets will be on sale for $70 or less, with the cheapest adult ticket prices at $40.
Everton will open the tournament on July 15 with a match against Stoke, while Arsenal play a Singapore Select XI on the same day. The losers of the opening matches will play each other in a 3rd/4th play-off on July 18. That is followed by the final between the two winners on matchday one.
Tickets can be bought at www.sportshubtix.sg, the box office at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and at all SingPost outlets islandwide.