Tigers Heading For Beijing
The Premier League, the Beijing Football Association (BFA) and Barclays have announced that Hull City, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Beijing Guoan will compete for the Barclays Asia Trophy 2009 in Beijing this July. The Barclays Asia Trophy is one of the headline events at the inaugural 2009 Beijing Football International Festival.
Now an established part of the Premier League's fixture calendar, the Barclay's Asia Trophy has been hosted in some of Asia's major cities - Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Barclays is the title sponsor of the Asia Trophy for the second time. Commercial partners for the Barclays Asia Trophy are Nike, Budweiser and EA Sport. Beijing Television will be the host broadcaster.
The four team knock-out tournament will take place over two match days on 29 and 31 July with a final to determine the winner and a play-off to decide third place. All matches will take place in the Workers Stadium and 49,000 tickets will be on sale for each match day. The tournament will be officiated by Barclays Premier League Match Officials and BFA Match Officials, and will also be staged in accordance with Barclays Premier League Rules. Additionally, all matches will be broadcast locally in China, in the UK by Sky Sports and around the world. Pricing and advice on purchasing tickets will be announced shortly.
The schedule for the tournament (with final kick-off times TBC) is:
Wednesday 29 July
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Kick-off 6pm (11am BST)
Hull City v Beijing Guoan - Kick-off 8.30pm (1.30pm BST)
Friday 31 July
3rd and 4th play-off - Kick-off 6pm (11am BST)
Final - Kick-off 8.30pm (1.30pm BST)
The Premier League has also committed to a full programme of 'Creating Chances' activities, including coaching initiatives, refereeing schemes and community schemes to run alongside the Barclays Asia Trophy 2009. The Premier League will run one of its innovative Premier Skills coaching courses as well as a Barclays Asia Trophy Creating Chances Community Programme for 10-13 year-old children. The Premier League is working in close partnership with the BFA on both initiatives.
Premier Skills is an international coaching development project run by the Premier League and the British Council. Designed to leave lasting legacy, it provides week-long courses to coach the coaches at grassroots level in the morning and afternoon workshops on coaching best practice and community sport development. At the end of the course the coaches return to use their new skills in their local communities. Two coaches from each of the three participating Premier League Clubs will help run the course in Beijing from Friday 24 to Thursday 30 July. Former Premier League player Warren Barton will run Premier Skills in Beijing.
Barclays Asia Trophy Creating Chances Community Programme will run from Saturday 25 to Wednesday 29 July. A group of 96 local children - a mix of boys, girls and those from disabled groups - will receive three hours of coaching each day. Using the Creating Chances model that the Premier League run in England, the children will not only be taught football skills but will also learn about healthy lifestyles and personal development.
The two courses will culminate on the Thursday when there will be a Barclays Asia Trophy Creating Chances Community Festival. The Premier Skills coaches will host a special skills session with the children from the Community Programme. Joining them will be players and coaching staff from the participating Premier League Clubs. This event will be open to the media.
Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, said: "All of us involved in the Barclays Asia Trophy are looking forward immensely to playing a successful part in the 2009 Beijing Football International Festival. We know that there is a great appreciation for Barclays Premier League football in China and we are anticipating passionate home support in the Workers Stadium.
"We also hope that our on and off-field knowledge will aid China's continued progress as a football nation. The development of the game in China is critical to football's future as the world's sport of choice.
"We have three fantastic Clubs in Hull City, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur - each of them says something about what makes the Barclays Premier League so compelling. I am sure our Clubs will take as much from the experience as Beijing Guoan and the BFA."
Chris Hui, Barclays Capital Head of Investment Banking China/Hong Kong, added: "As title sponsors of this tournament we are delighted at the prospect of three clubs from the top flight of English football going head to head against one of the biggest teams in China. Most people agree that the Barclays Premier League is the most exciting football league in the world and, we hope this tournament gives people in Beijing the chance to taste what a Barclays Premier League encounter is really like."
Hull City manager Phil Brown, who has recently returned from an end-of-season trip to Singapore and was hugely encouraged by the widespread support and knowledge of the Barclays Premier League, claimed that all the players and staff at Hull City are very much looking forward to coming to the capital of the People's Republic of China.
He said: "For Hull City to be a part of the Beijing Football International Festival after our domestic success this year is fantastic. I just want the players to go out there and express themselves. We're challenging for a trophy in a different country and that is testimony to how diverse the last two or three years have been for Hull City."
"The fact that there are two teams out there who can boast a higher Barclays Premier League finish than us will be a test, as I'm sure will also be provided by Beijing Guoan, who are having an excellent season in the Chinese Super League. The climate and change of culture will be a challenge, but that's an exciting test that we will embrace," Brown added.
One man with experience of the Workers Stadium is West Ham United manager Gianfranco Zola, who was a coach of Italian national team at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Working with Pierluigi Casiraghi, Zola's team played in the Stadium in front of more than 50,000 at the quarter-final stage, only to be defeated 3-2 by Belgium. Zola is thrilled to be heading back to Beijing.
"The Chinese people love football. I went there with the Italian Olympic team last year and it was clear they have a passion for the game. I was recognised by a lot of people and you could see that the Barclays Premier League is very popular over there. It is going to be an exciting experience for everyone and we are looking forward to going to Beijing," he said.
"This pre-season, and the matches we will play in China, are going to be very important for us because it will allow us to prepare for the new season in the right way. The young players will gain more experience and it is going to help us to be stronger and improve on what we have achieved so far."
Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has experience of the Barclays Asia Trophy, winning it in 2007 with his previous club Portsmouth. He said: "All of us at Tottenham are looking forward to competing in this season's Barclays Asia Trophy. It is a great opportunity for fans from China to get to come and watch their favourite players in action.
"I really enjoyed the last time I was involved in the competition with Portsmouth two years ago in Hong Kong. It was a great few days in terms of preparation for the new Barclays Premier League season and I was really impressed with everything - it is a terrific competition and well organised. Everything was first class."