However, a clear trend in recent years, there has been a regional shift that has seen more world-class sporting events head to Asia and more world-class sporting franchises and brands headquartered in Asia.
At the forefront of this phenomenon are a handful of pioneering executives who are helping to establish the region on the sporting map. Here is a definitive guide to the movers and shakers who sit at the helm of the Asian sports boom.
1. Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa
Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa from Bahrain is the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and sits on the FIFA executive committee. Football is the single most popular sport in Asia and is a multi-billion dollar industry with television rights to competitions such as the English Premier League and the World Cup sold for eye watering amounts of money.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan was the first time that the most lucrative sporting tournament in world had been held in Asia.In 2022, it will be Qatar’s turn to host this tournament, the first time the World Cup has ever been held in the Middle East.
Al Khalifa is one of just seven Vice Presidents on the FIFA executive committee and the only Vice President from the Asian region making him the most powerful man in Asian football. Before his election as the president of AFC, he was president of Bahrain Football Association and he is also a member of the Bahrain royal family.
2. Narayanaswami Srinivasan
Narayanaswami Srinivasan is the current Chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and former President of the BCCI, the governing body for cricket in India. He is also the boss of Chennai Super Kings, the most successful team in the wildly popular Indian Premier League (IPL).
The ICC is responsible for organizing the Cricket World Cup which is one of the most viewed sporting events in the world. At this year’s tournament the match between India and Pakistan drew an approximate television audience of more than 288 million in India alone.
From 2007 to 2015 the ICC made an estimated £1.58 billion in revenue. Srinivasan is currently at the helm of this lucrative and influential organization and that makes this Indian industrialist the most powerful man in the entire cricket world.
3. Zubin Gandevia
Fox’s Zubin Gandevia has responsibility for the organization’s operations across Asia Pacific and the Middle East. As COO of Fox International, he presides over 18 offices in 14 markets across the region with over 100 feeds and in excess of 30 channel brands.
In 2013, ESPN Asia was renamed Fox Sports Asia as a part Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation takeover of the joint venture between News Corporation and Disney.
Fox Sports Asia is the most significant sports broadcast network in Asia and holds the rights to marquee events including Formula One, the EPL, MLB, the PGA Tour, the UFC, ONE Championship and Wimbledon.
4. Andrew Georgiou
Andrew Georgiou is the CEO of World Sport Group and has been masterminding the group’s biggest deals while helping to also establish its on-going relationship with the multi-billion dollar Singapore Sports Hub – the largest Public-Private Partnership sports infrastructure project in the world. He also led and won the bid for Singapore to host the WTA Finals for a record five years and has helped broker the TV rights for the Indian Premier League.
World Sport Group is Asia's leading sports marketing agency and specializes in sports sponsorship, sports content and sports event management. It is a key member of the Singapore Sports Hub Consortium, the group that won the bid to build, operate and manage the brand new sports, entertainment and lifestyle hub in Singapore. Widely regarded as an influential leader in the world of sports, Georgiou was also the architect of the global partnership between Emirates Airlines and Formula One.
5. Hary Tanoesoedibjo
Hary Tanoesoedibjo is the multibillionaire founder and CEO of MNC Group, Indonesia’s largest television broadcasting network and media group. In a country with a population of over 250 million people that gives his company enormous influence.
The MNC Group owns and operates three of the country’s free to air television stations as well as 18 additional channels, three radio stations and multiple print publications in Indonesia. Its MNC 1 channel alone broadcasts the UEFA Champions League, the NBA and the US Open while the RCTI channel shows blue chip sporting events like La Liga, the UFC and ONE Championship.
6. Victor Cui
Victor Cui is the CEO of ONE Championship, the biggest martial arts promotion in Asia and one of the most valuable sports properties in the region. Mixed martial arts has been the fastest growing sport in the world over the last 10 years, and the sport has grown at its fastest pace in the region due to Asia’s rich history in the martial arts.
ONE Championship is broadcast to over 1 billion homes throughout the region and has held sold out shows in major stadiums across Asia. From the outset, the promotion also signed an unprecedented ten year broadcast partnership with Fox Sports Asia. The American-based UFC has been valued at $1.65 billion and Cui’s promotion has emerged as its most genuine global competitor.
7. Kyi Hla Han
Kyi Hla Han is the current executive chairman of the Asian Tour. He is a former professional golfer and has been a driving force behind the recent success of the Asian tour, under his watch the amount of prize money on offer to players has increased from around $20 million to in excess of $40 million.
The tour has expanded to take in 11 countries in Asia and has even seen the Asian Tour head to Europe. Golf might not be the most popular game in terms of participation but it remains a lucrative sport which attracts blue chip sponsors and mainstream media coverage, making Han a major powerbroker in Asian sports.
8. Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah
Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah is the current president of Olympic Council of Asia, a position he has held since 1991. He is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC is the supreme authority for the Olympic Games, and as a member Al-Sabah gets to vote on which city hosts the Olympic Games, amongst other things.
The 2015 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro is projected to generate over $4 billion worth of revenue, making it one of the most lucrative sporting events in the world. Al-Sabah has previously served as Minister of Oil and Director of the National Security Agency in his native Kuwait but is now firmly focussed on sport.
Al-Sabah has previously held key roles in sport such as President of the Kuwait Olympic Committee, Chairman of the Afro Asian Games Council, Vice President of the International Handball Federation, President of Asian Handball Federation, Senior Vice President of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation, Honorary President of several Kuwaiti, Arab and Asian clubs.
9. Sam Xie
Sam Xie is the general manager of sports business development and marketing at Tencent and the deputy chief editor of the wildly popular messaging service www.qq.xom. As of January 2015, there are 829 million active QQ accounts, with a peak of 176.4 million simultaneous online QQ users.
In April 2015, the market value of Tencent exceeded US$200 billion and the company is making its mark on the sporting world. It is the exclusive digital partner of the Chinese Olympic Committee and the exclusive digital broadcaster of the NBA in China. With these partnerships in place, Xie has put Tencent firmly on the list of influential players in the world of sports in Asia.
10. Praful Patel
Praful Patel was named as Vice President of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) earlier this year and has been the president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) since 2012, making him one of the most powerful man in Asian football.
In 2014, Patel helped introduce the Indian Super League, which has attracted the likes of Roberto Carlos, Nicolas Anelka and David James to India as either players or managers. He is also a successful politician and businessman.