Asia’s Sports Industry: Singapore’s Next Major Growth Market?

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Sports trainersSINGAPORE – A panel discussion on Sports Business in Asia was organised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) earlier this week, during which the small island country was urged not to miss out on the opportunities available in the region’s burgeoning sports industry.

The overall view of the panel, which included members of the Economic Development Board and World Sport Group, was that Singapore is perfectly positioned to be a key player in Asia’s emerging sports industry, and should waste no time in taking advantage of the huge growth the sector has recently been experiencing.

Since the turn of the century, Asia’s sports industry has developed a great deal. The Korea/Japan Football World Cup in 2002 and the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 provided a massive boost to sports marketing in the region, whilst China’s football and basketball leagues have attracted huge amounts of sponsorship and advertising. The sports industry now comprises a significant portion of several Asian countries’ annual GDP, particularly those of China, Japan, and Korea. Development in the industry looks set to continue, with the new Indian Super League already having attracted household football names before it starts in October, and Japan due to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

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The scope of Asia’s sports industry extends beyond marketing and sponsorship deals, however. The Korea/Japan Football World Cup and the Beijing Olympic Games were widely used as vehicles to publicize their respective country as a whole, to promote business and trade opportunities and encourage cultural exchange.  The development of the industry has also had a knock-on effect in the sports equipment sector. In 2013, the Asia-Pacific sports equipment market had total revenues of $US 18, 494.5 mil and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7 percent between 2009 and 2013. On their own and within the same period, the Chinese and Japanese markets increased by nine and 0.6 percent respectively, representing revenues of $US 4, 299.6 mil and $US 8, 252.4 mil.

Singapore certainly already has a foundation from which it would be able to build its sports industry. Its excellent infrastructure makes it an ideal candidate for hosting major sporting events; its efficient governmental systems means that sport corruption – a problem that has plagued the Chinese Super League – would be kept to a minimum; and its low interest rates, highly skilled workforce and business-friendly structure make it an appealing proposition for equipment manufacturers and sports clubs. Perhaps the country’s only disadvantage is its relatively small population and declining birth-rate, which could affect its ability to appear in sporting tournaments. However, small countries such as Uruguay and Jamaica are testament to the fact that a strong sporting culture can sufficiently counter such a problem.

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Ms. Kow Ree Na, director of the Consumer Business and Lifestyle Programme Office at the Economic Development Board, perhaps best summed up Singapore’s potential in the sports industry. Speaking to Channel News Asia, she said: “If you want to describe the sports industry in Singapore and the region, I think the keyword to use would be ‘growth’.”

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