Arsenal friendly in Vietnam faces cancellation

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A representative from the English Premier League club Arsenal (left) visits My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi early this month. A match between Arsenal and the Vietnam national team faces cancellation since the organizers and the stadium managers have failed to reach an agreement on the rent. Photo by Ngo Nguyen

A friendly between English Premier League club Arsenal and the Vietnamese national team is on the verge of cancellation as the organizers and stadium managers have been at odds over the rent.  

The rent for the 40,000-seat My Dinh National Stadium where the game is set to take place on July 17 had reportedly been VND1 billion (US$47,549), and this has been increased by half.

"It's sad that the My Dinh Stadium [management] took advantage of this occasion to rip off the match organizers"¦ It's not fair play to push the rent up to VND1.5 billion," Le Hung Dung, vice chairman of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) and chairman of Eximbank one of the two sponsors for Arsenal's trip to Vietnam, said Thursday.

"We can't accept such inflated prices," Dung said, adding that the key purpose for the friendly match is to make Vietnamese football fans happy, rather than earning profits.

According to Dung, the "reasonable" rent should be between VND300-500 million, compared to VND200 million that VFF had paid five years ago to rent the stadium for a match with an Olympic team from Brazil.

He said if the stadium's management insisted on their latest price, the organizers could have the match canceled.

But Can Van Nghia, director of My Dinh national sports complex which includes the stadium, disagreed with any reduction.

Nghia told VTC News Friday that the rent of VND1.5 billion is "not steep," since this is a big event that would garner a lot of attention and the organizers can earn dozens of billions of dong from ticket sales.

Tickets would cost up to VND1.5 million ($720) each. Revenues would also accrue from other sources such as copyright for broadcasting and advertisements.

Vietnam's 2012 per capita income was $1,555.

Nghia said his organization would have to pay more than VND1 billion to spruce up the stadium for the "big" event.

"Canceling [the match] or not is not our business"¦ The organizers should not make use of this [cancellation] to put pressure on us," he told VTC News.

However, Nghia told Thanh Nien that he has yet to make a final decision on the rent.

But Dung of VFF said that the organizers will  lose at least VND5 billion on invitation tickets and earn nothing from advertisements since the advertisements at the stadium are for the sponsors, adding that the organizers are "willing" to give the right to hold the match to the stadium management if they think the event will make huge profits.

Nguyen Trong Hy, VFF's chairman, said the organizers did not consider the match  an opportunity to make profits. The total cost for the match was originally estimated at VND39.8 billion and the organizers were expecting loss of more than VND11 billion, he said.

But "definitely the match will take place [as scheduled] at My Dinh [stadium] and the rent cannot be that high," he said.

The July game is part of Arsenal's pre-season tour for Asia this year. Apart from the Vietnamese team, Arsenal, nicknamed "The Gunners" are also scheduled to play the Indonesian national team in the country capital's Jakarta on July 14; and Japanese clubs Nagoya Grampus and Urawa Reds in Japan on July 22 and July 26 respectively.

"Everyone at Arsenal is proud to be the first Premier League team to play a match in Vietnam and to be spending time in this wonderful country," chief executive Ivan Gazidis was quoted as saying on the club's official website early last month.

"Arsène Wenger [the coach], the players and all the staff have hugely enjoyed our tours to Asia in the past two years, and we are all looking forward to visiting Vietnam as part of our Asia Tour 2013."

The club is also known in football-crazy Vietnam for supporting the national football through a local project to help develop young players. The Hoang Anh Gia Lai-Arsenal JMG Academy is a joint venture between Vietnamese property giant Hoang Anh Gia Lai and Arsenal.

Last year, the rent for My Dinh Stadium that VFF had to pay for a friendly match with an Indonesian team was raised three times to VND265 million, but finally reduced to VND200 million.

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