SINGAPORE - There was a bit of buzz when Atletico Madrid came to Singapore in 2013, a little more excitement when Andrea Pirlo's Juventus visited last August, and Brazil-mania hit Singapore when Neymar and Co faced Japan at the new National Stadium in October.
If international sports media rights company MP & Silva has its way, the next six years will see Singapore fans consistently drawn to the National Stadium, not just to see some of the biggest names in the sport, but also to stand up for their very own Lions.
Yesterday, MP & Silva signed a six-year deal with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to the tune of $25 million to manage the global media rights for the Singapore national team as well as its various age-group squads.
The deal, the FAS' biggest commercial partnership in its history, will see MP & Silva organise between four and six high-profile games each year involving international teams, club sides and Singapore's Lions.
"Singapore is the only country in South-east Asia with an iconic, class A stadium with amazing facilities.
This is a jewel of the country, and we need to use it properly together with the FAS," said MP & Silva founding partner, Andrea Radrizanni, whose company saw its beginnings in Singapore.
"This stadium is the centre of the platform we need to build to engage fans, partners and sponsors.
"Financially, to be honest, if we break even in the beginning, it will be a big success. I don't think it will be profitable, the events will be risky.
"We need to mix the local events with the top international events, but it is a steady plan, a project that is solid, so that the sponsors can embrace it."
The company will also tap on its network to arrange overseas stints for local players and coaches, with the Belgian league the most immediate possibility.
Radrizanni believes having a six-year agreement with the FAS will allow his company to put in place two or three game deals with big teams, instead of handling and marketing each game as a single entity.
This medium-term planning provides more stability that he hopes will entice sponsors to come on board.
In his speech yesterday, Radrizzani said that what struck him most in his discussions with the FAS was its vision and ambition.
Hailing the national body as "one of the most professional and hardworking organisations" he has known, he said: "Its willingness to set high goals for itself and to strive to reach them is admirable."
Radrizzani added that he knew that limited resources prevented the FAS from realising some of its targets in its Strategic Plan.
"I understand that the FAS did not have the necessary resources to execute a number of areas of its Strategic Plan. With MP & Silva coming in, we hope to help it fully implement some of its programmes."
While media content creation is central to its business, the events component of the Singapore project is critical, and provide the platform from which to launch fan-engagement activities.
Work has already begun on the youth development aspect of the deal, and will likely be one of the first things to bear fruit.
"We have an excellent relationship with the Belgian league, and they are available to cooperate with the FAS... the discussion is already in its advanced stages," said Radrizanni, of the possibility for player and coach exchange programmes.
"This is the first but important step."
MP & Silva, who can count Fifa, English Premier League, as well as the Olympic Council of Asia as its partners, signed its latest deal on Jan 20, a $474 million, 15-year agreement with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
Radrizanni explains that the FAM agreement is distinctly different from the one signed with the FAS.
The deal with the FAM is focused on boosting the Malaysian Super League (MSL), while the S.League is not a key component of the FAS deal.
"That is a completely different project, the MSL is a championship with a big audience... this (Singapore) project is more focused on events. Financially, that one is bigger, this is more complicated," said Radrizanni.
The deal with MP & Silva excites FAS president Zainudin Nordin, who believes it could change things here.
"Football is about accessibility for fans and to offer quality (football)," he said.
In the past, we were more ad-hoc and opportunistic (in terms of attracting big teams here) - we don't have the resources and muscle and weren't able to take risks that's necessary.
"The opportunity (for young players) to be able to play, get exposure and the (training) stints - that's what excites me the most about the deal.
"The way we work with young (footballers) will be transformed."
FAS' deal with MP & Silva l From July this year for the next six years, MP & Silva will organise between four and six games every year, involving international as well as well-known club sides and the Singapore national team.
These matches could include the conception of local, regional and international tournaments hosted here, looking to feature the senior national side as well as age-group teams.
Sponsorship and marketing plans revolving around those games, looking to maximise broadcast and e-commerce revenue.
Leveraging its extensive contacts to secure training stints for players and coaches, with the Belgian league the most immediately viable option.
Increase visibility of Singapore national team in the media, and fan engagement with the team l Note: Marketing the S.League is not a key component of the deal, neither are the LionsXII.
We thank MP & Silva for coming on board for Singapore football, and we look forward for this catalysing and motivating further development, particularly in youth development which is an area we are focusing on.
It is a significant vote of confidence in Singapore football. - Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (above, centre), with FAS president Zainudin Nordin (left) and MP & Silva founding partner Andrea Radrizanni.
This article was first published on February 03, 2015.
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