Thai premier league now attracting fans across the region (09/02/2011)

The Thai Premier League (TPL) is becoming increasingly popular not only in Thailand but also in Asean countries, if one were to go by the number of tourists, who have booked their trips to watch local football matches .

"I was contacted by tour agencies in Malaysia and Indonesia to organise tours to watch TPL matches. They wanted to see the management of TPL teams, they also wanted to know how they organise fan clubs as well as operate merchandising stores," Chatree Tangthienkul, managing director of World Planet International tour operator, said.

Chatree said that the tour agencies had told him that the TPL is very popular in their countries. "The people were amazed by the success of the local league and how the stadiums were packed with home enthusiasts."

He proposed tour programmes to leading clubs such as Muangthong United, Nong Chok United and politician Newin Chidchob's Buriram PEA, which he thought are big clubs, well organised and worth visiting by foreigners.

Chatree, whose company normally organises outbound tours for sport events such as English Premier League, World Cup, and Uefa's Euro, said it was quite new for his company to organise an inbound tour for sporting events in Thailand, but it was very interesting. He said he never thought that Thai sport events would attract fans from other countries. However, he said it helps create a new market and add a new dimension to his company.

The tour operator has no concerns about the new task at hand except safety for the foreigners as some violence had taken place during some matches last season. He said he had raised his concerns to the clubs and was confident that big clubs would address the issue. Tourists normally need to take insurance to cover any eventualities, he insisted.

The TPL has been a big hit in Thailand in recent years. The competition has attracted plenty of sponsors and investment. Many politicians jumped onto the bandwagon, perceiving it as a way to turn football fans into political supporters. The new season will kick off this Saturday and competition is expected to be very keen.

Meanwhile, the World Planet International tour operator will also organise other international football tours. The first is the "red war day" between Liverpool and Manchester United from March 3-8, the match between Manchester United and Chelsea on May 5-10, which may decide the fate of English Premier League title. The final of the Uefa Champions League on May 28 is among the list of tours offered by Chatree.

Chatree said travelling to watch a football match in Europe is not difficult but the tough part is getting the tickets. So fans need to use the services of tour operators to organise their trip or they may risk getting fake tickets, he warned .

Source :