MATRADE inks deal to QPR stadium naming right but wouldn’t Cardiff City be a better option?

IT HAS been reported that the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (MATRADE) has secured the naming rights to English football club Queen Park Ranger’s (QPR) stadium – Loftus Road.

QPR was formerly owned by Air Asia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes who succeeded in taking the side into top flight briefly before selling his stake in July 2023.

As a re-cap, Fernandes had bought a 66% stake in QPR in 2011 from F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone for a deal reported to be worth £35 mil (currently RM200 mil).

As reported by the Scoop news portal, MATRADE chairman Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican has described partnering with the London-based club would elevate the agency’s global reputation over the long run.

MATRADE chairman Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican (third from left) and QPR co-owner Datuk Ruben Emir Gnanalingam (third from right) posing in front of the Loftus Road stadium after sealing the naming right recently

“When I initiated the proposal for MATRADE to re-brand itself after 30 years of its establishment, I saw that the new naming rights partnership as an opportunity for MATRADE to elevate its brand visibility on the international scene,” envisages the UMNO supreme council member who assumed MATRADE chairmanship in May this year.

“By leveraging QPR’s long-standing history in English football, MATRADE will be able to enhance its global recognition as a trusted agency to connect trade between our two countries. “We look forward to a successful partnership with QPR.”

Of interest though is the fact that QPR co-owner Datuk Ruben Emir Gnanalingam (son of the late shipping tycoon Tan Sri G Gnanalingam) also sits on the board of MATRADE.

Questions therefore arise as to the wisdom of such a move at a time when the ringgit is in freefall mode. Just how much traction does MATRADE expect to gain from a side currently sitting second from bottom in the Championship (one tier below Premiership)?

Thankfully, however, the three-year collaboration and full cost of the naming rights partnership valued at £1.2 mil (£400,000 per year) will be absorbed by Ruben as part of his corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Malaysia.

Cardiff City FC also boasts Malaysian ownership through tycoon and Berjaya Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun

What about Cardiff City FC?

Even then, if as expected QPR do get relegated into the third tier, how will this partnership elevate MATRADE’s “brand visibility on the international scene”?

With a capacity of just 18,000, Loftus Road is no Emirates stadium (home to Arsenal FC) or even the Amex stadium (home to Brighton and Hove Albion FC).

If global recognition is MATRADE’s aim, it could have targeted a smaller club with a modest stadium such as insurance provider Vitality’s sponsorship of AFC Bournemouth’s tiny ground. The difference is Bournemouth are in the top flight and millions of followers of the English Premier League are exposed to the brand.

If MATRADE did not have a budget for a full-fledged premiership team, perhaps it could have targeted a side that had an outside chance of promotion into the top flight.

In this regard, wouldn’t Cardiff City FC make more sense as it also boasts of Malaysian connection via tycoon and Berjaya Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun’s ownership?

At the time of writing, Cardiff City sits in fifth place in the Championship and could very well be back in the top flight next season. Wouldn’t securing the naming rights to the Cardiff City Stadium been a more prudent decision? – Oct 30, 2023

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