EPL chief Richard Scudamore (Getty)

(WFI) Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore is effusive in his praise of Hong Kong’s fanbase, infrastructure, and football leadership ahead of the sixth edition of the Barclays Asia Trophy.

Tottenham Hotspur will face Sunderland to open the tournament on Wednesday, taking place 10 years to the day since the first Premier League-sanctioned match took place in Kuala Lumpur. As in previous editions, the format remains the same – four teams take part in semi-finals with a final and third-place play-off.

That semifinal will be followed by one between Manchester City and South China. South China, which also competed in 2007, will attempt to join the 2005 Thailand national team as the only host squads in tournament history to advance from the first round. Meanwhile, Tottenham return for the first time since taking the tournament title in 2009 in Beijing.

“What’s been noticeable is how the young fans, between 15 and 25, think of the Barclays Asia Trophy as their Premier League,” Scudamore told Premierleague.com.

“They see these matches as the real deal. The intensity of the matches is matched by the intensity of the fans and that will be fascinating to see again.”

Hong Kong hosts the tournament for the third time since its inception in 2003 in Kuala Lampur. It is the only site to play host to more than one tournament, all of which have come since 2007.

Scudamore said this was due to a number of factors, including an “extremely knowledgable and…enthusiastic” fanbase and a high level of professionalism from the Hong Kong FA and its senior executives.

He also mentioned Hong Kong’s array of training facilities and the role they play in aiding the clubs’ pre-season preparation.

Scudamore said he expects all the teams to take the competition “very seriously”.

“This is an important part of their build-up and winning the Barclays Asia Trophy gives teams bragging rights. Lifting the trophy will give them something to start their season off on a positive note,” he said.

The biggest development in the tournament’s six editions is in the increasing activity off the pitch, the EPL boss added.

“Before it was just one day, but now we have activities going on all week, such as coaching sessions for coaches, players and referees, as well as knowledge transfer sessions for people in club administration. We are doing a whole series of workshops with the HKFA this week ranging from elite coaching down through to the grassroots.

“The Barclays Asia Trophy has, in effect, become a microcosm of what the clubs and the Premier League are doing in England. In their communities the clubs have expanded their work, their coaching, while there are the Premier League’s referee development courses that will be repeated in Hong Kong, working with the Hong Kong and Chinese FAs.”

The final and third place play-off will be staged on Saturday at the Hong Kong Stadium.

By INSIDER’s Nick Devlin

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