Thai Premier League can follow in EPL's footsteps: Everton chief
Thai Premier League could one day become as successful as the English Premier League (EPL), but the country has to be patient, Everton's chief executive officer Robert Elstone said on Monday."If you have proper planning, patience, the right people and the right resources then why not?" he said during a dinner talk in Bangkok organised by ThaiBev, the makers of Chang Beer, who are also Everton FC's shirt sponsors.
Elstone, visiting as part of the partnership with ThaiBev, suggested that Thai youngsters should begin their football training at the age of four or five, as beginning at 14 or 15 is too late.
"Thai football should not be 'afraid' of becoming successful. You should be setting a lot of benchmarks. The most important thing is to catch the boys at a young age and have patience in waiting for their success. I think it will take at least 10 years," he said.
The Everton boss also delivered a talk on "Football Freakonomics" and shared his experience at the helm of a top-class club in the EPL, which he hopes can help the development of Thai football clubs.
He said the EPL made an enormous amount of money and had increased its value "like crazy" - a success story that was achieved in just 20 years.
"The EPL brings in £60 million every single Saturday afternoon. This is a phenomenal number … 1,300 per cent more than it was when the EPL was first formed in 1992. The business has grown 13-fold in 20 years. It is the most important barometer to measure its success," he said.
ThaiBev CEO Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi agreed that the figures Elstone reeled off showed the value of the EPL contribution to the economy. Nobody thought football could generate Bt3 billion over just one Saturday, he said.
"Over the past two years, I think Thai Premier League has grown faster than the EPL. All I wish is for Chang to have an opportunity to play a vital role in developing Thai football. I want to see Thai football make good progress," Thapana said.
Chang became the first Thai brand to support an English foot-ball club with its shirt sponsorship of Everton. The partnership, which started in 2004 and is now in its ninth season, represents one of the longest in English football history.
"A partner like Everton, a top-class club, is crucial in the development of our footballers' skills at the youth, club or national level. The Chang-Everton partnership is vital for achieving our goal," Thapana said.
Meanwhile, there is a possibility that the two partners may revive the "Chang Thai to Everton" project soon.
"We have talked with Chang about the possibility of reviving the project to send young Thais to Everton. In that project, we helped young rising stars [Teerathep Vinothai, Sompong Sorleb, etc] of the Thai national team train at Everton. Outstanding young players from the Chang Cadet Cup competition held in October will be selected for training at our Finch Farm Academy," Elstone said.
Elstone also presented ThaiBev with Bt1 million in funds for flood relief raised from joint Chang-Everton initiatives under the "Power of Thai" project. The money was raised during the Everton-Norwich City match last year.
While in Thailand, Elstone also joined senior ThaiBev executives to donate sports equipment to Pamai Uthit 9 School in Nonthaburi which was badly affected by heavy floods last year.