Champions Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are due to play friendlies in the region, including games in Australia, Thailand and Malaysia, while the league’s official Asian Trophy, featuring Arsenal, Stoke City and Everton, will he staged in Singapore in July.
The arrival of the English sides over the coming weeks will cause a halt to the Southeast Asian leagues and falls either side of the start of the next phase of World Cup qualifying matches in the region.
Some fans in Malaysia, long used to the arrival of European clubs for lucrative fixtures, have labelled the Spurs and Liverpool matches “circus games” and called for a boycott.
Their malcontent is fuelled by the fixture disruption and a perceived apathy towards the national team, who wallow at 166th in the FIFA rankings, their worst ever position.
Across the border in Singapore, the Premier League arrived to open arms from the local football association on Tuesday as they announced ticketing prices for their event and local initiatives they hope will keep everyone happy.
“For us it is about leaving the best possible impression on behalf of the Premier League,” its director of sales and marketing Richard Masters told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We will be doing knowledge transfer work shops, we will be trying to improve the standard of refereeing, Mike Riley is coming to host a referee workshop, and we are going to be making an announcement in the next few weeks with the Singapore FA about an investment we are making out here.
“They are small things but helpful and we think they are important.”
Masters said it was not for the league to offer touring advice to its clubs when presented with the reports of Malaysian unrest at Spurs and Liverpool’s visit and whether teams should just play overseas in the official Asia Trophy competition.
He did, however, promote the values of the two-day four team biennial tournament that launched in 2003 and has been played in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China.
Masters said the tournament could be expanded to take place in multiple locations biennially and added the controversial 39th game, a Premier League overseas match, was not completely ruled out but off the agenda for now.
But the arrival of the Asian Trophy comes at a difficult time for Singaporean soccer, with discussions taking place about disbanding the underwritten domestic league which struggles for media interest and barely registers amongst the football-obsessed public.
Their interest frequently cast west to the European leagues, and mainly England, where the invention of multi-lingual social media club websites coupled with complete television access and slick production has gazumped all rivals.
Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin told reporters it was an honour to host the event and a once in a lifetime opportunity for a Singapore Select XI before cancelling interviews and leaving early.
Masters believed Singaporean football would benefit from the Premier League’s arrival.
“We think a strong interest in football is good for football generally and therefore it shouldn’t have a negative effect on the development of football, it should help,” he said.
“There is space for everybody so our view would be we wouldn’t come if we weren’t welcome by local football authorities.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)