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How Peter Lim’s Valencia takeover may lift the local game

Football industry players and observers here are energised as news of Singaporean businessman Peter Lim’s takeover of Spanish top flight side Valencia CF continue to sink in.

SINGAPORE: Football industry players and observers here are energised as news of Singaporean businessman Peter Lim’s takeover of Spanish top flight side Valencia CF continue to sink in.

On Saturday, 60-year-old Lim was confirmed as the new owner of Valencia CF after successfully buying over 70.4 per cent of the shares owned by the club’s foundation.

Known here as the “Remisier King”, Lim pledged €420 million (S$720 million) to clear the club of their debts, finance the construction of a new stadium, and fund the purchase of new players.

When contacted, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) revealed that it is looking forward to linking up with the Singaporean billionaire in ways that will “help our players reach their fullest potential.”

Said Gerard Wong, director of marketing and communications at FAS: “Lim has shown that he is passionate about Singapore sport by setting up the Singapore Olympic Foundation’s Peter Lim Scholarship for young budding talented sportsmen (in 2010), and by facilitating the opportunity for national footballer Hariss Harun to play professionally in Portugal (2013).

“Naturally, we would relish the opportunity to meet Lim or his representatives in the near future to discuss the possible collaborations to achieve our objectives for Singapore football.”

Former Singapore football international R Sasikumar concurs that the news could mean only good things ahead for Singapore football, and that Lim’s financial capability, coupled with his vast network in the footballing industry, should be tapped by FAS.

“It really depends on what sort of partnerships FAS can manage to strike up with him,” said Sasikumar, the managing director of sports marketing agency Red Card Sports and Entertainment.

“He is a shrewd businessman, so the taking over of Valencia must have made good commercial sense to him.

“But he is also a philanthropist in local sports. He is friends with one of the biggest football agents in the world (Jorge Mendes), has got great connections in Europe, and Asia … so the sporting and business opportunities for Singapore is boundless if FAS works well with him.”

Sasikumar believes that Lim — who has previously been linked to English football club Liverpool, Spanish side Atletico Madrid and Italian club AC Milan — has the capability to take Valencia back to their glory days.

The club finished eighth in the just-concluded Spanish Primera Liga season, having won the last of their six league titles in 2004, the last club to break the Real Madrid-Barcelona dominance before Atletico Madrid this season. They also won the UEFA Cup in 2004 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1980, and were twice runners-up in the Champions League.

Said Sasikumar: “It will all have a ripple effect if Lim’s business in Valencia becomes a success story.

“Firstly, it will put a Singaporean, and thus Singapore, on the world map in football and this will make the sport in the country more attractive to other investors.

“Secondly, it means that Lim will be rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in football, which could directly bring about sporting and business opportunities for Singapore.”
Beyond benefitting the local football scene, Ajay Sunder of consulting firm Frost and Sullivan thinks Lim’s acquisition of Valencia will lift the sport in South-east Asia.

“As a Singaporean, one will definitely feel proud of his feat. Even as a football fan in the region, one can be excited about the possibilities,” said Sunder, a senior director at the firm.

“Coaches and footballers may be able to go for training stints in top Spanish clubs, and South-east Asia can expect Valencia and other La Liga clubs to be in town too. It is exciting times ahead.”

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