Philippines to welcome back Asian Club Championship in 2020

Jan. 20, 2020 @ 19:20 UTC

We talk to Bianca Arco about the upcoming Asian Club Championships, the growth of the sport in the Philippines, and the importance of commercial partnerships.

After a short hiatus, the FIT Asian Club Championships is set to return to the Philippines in August 2020. Open to the best club sides in Asia, Touch teams from outside the region are also welcome, according to Bianca, a former president of Touch Association Pilipinas (TAP) and the Event Director.

Formerly in retail marketing with a multinational lingerie company, Bianca who now works in business development for an agriculture company, said, 2020 is the second time the tournament has landed in the Philippines. In 2017, the competition, which had the backing of apparel manufacturer LA LIGA, was held in Manila.

The tournament is an excellent opportunity to grow Touch in the Philippines

Touch in the Philippines is focused mainly in Manila and started as a girls’ school league which ran the same time as the boys’ rugby season.

From a limited season, Touch is now played throughout the year, thanks to the Wednesday Night Touch which was a social competition started by a group of ex-pats and teachers working at the British School Manila (BSM). Not coincidently, Bianca coaches at BSM and plays for her local club – Nomads Bullettes. A men’s league only formally started after the 2015 TWC.

In 2018 Philippines played in the Hong Kong-China-Philippines Tri-Nation Test Series. This tournament was taken as preparation for the 2019 Touch World Cup (TWC), to test line-ups and discover players for development purposes. Hong Kong hosted the event. 

“There are a lot more opportunities to play now, both domestically and internationally” Bianca said.

Malaysian influence and the importance of sponsorship 

Bianca learnt to play Touch while at middle school in Malaysia where her family were living at that time. It was her Australian seventh-grade teacher at the Mont Kiara International School in Kuala Lumpur - David Roderick - who started the Touch team at the school. During the 2019 TWC in Malaysia (where Bianca was the Team/Tour Manager), David Roderick (still teaching at MKIS) came and watched the Philippines play.

Asked how she got involved with the administration of the sport in the Philippines and her administration style: “I had no real ambition to be a sports administrator or to even represent the Philippines at the 2015 TWC. I just tried out and got selected to play for the mixed team.”

She continued, “2015 TWC was an excellent experience for me, and I just wanted to see the sport grow and develop further. 

“I’m a person who likes things organised and likes to get things done. A lot of our sports associations are all very much volunteer-based. The way I’ve tried to run it when I was actively administrating, was like a business just because it needed to grow. In order to grow, you need to have funds. To get funds, you need to get sponsors.

“To get sponsors, you must give them a good audience or player base. So, it all snowballed into my involvement with so many different departments.”

Working with LA LIGA

The partnership with LA LIGA would be the most successful partnership that Touch Association Pilipinas (TAP) has fostered in recent years. Bianca expanded, “We’ve really grown with LA LIGA over the past three years. 

“It’s a Filipino apparel manufacturer, and they helped us design and produce our playing and social uniforms. But why I like partnering with them is their initiative for local sports and grassroots development where 14% of their proceeds go back into sports development for underprivileged players.

“They’ve adopted a kids foundation and engaged with these kids through sports. So, it feeds back into how we can attract more players to start playing Touch and our partnership with LA LIGA helps us meet these awesome kids.”

Together, TAP and LA LIGA co-organised the Asian Club Championship in Manila in 2017.

Bianca recalled, “I tried to get a team together to participate in 2015 in Thailand. 2016 it was held in Phnom Penn, Cambodia, and we sent two Philippine teams. 

At this point, Bianca convinced Championship organiser Bryan O’Connor that Manila was ready to host an international tournament. “I told Bryan that it would be great to bring some teams over because not everyone has the opportunity to tour or play internationally in the Philippines. And I used that opportunity to get LA LIGA on board with it.”

Club teams came from Hong Kong and Australia, and some players from Japan. We also had some referees fly in from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Australia. The competition was “pretty successful, and everyone had a great time”. 

“We’re trying to have one, August 28 to 29 this year in Manila, that LA LIGA is again supporting. This event doesn’t need to be restricted to Asia, if club teams from further away are willing to fly over for it, that’s even better. But mainly we will be promoting it to Asia Pacific club teams. We hope to have this event every two years between TWCs.”

LA LIGA supports Touch

Paulo Jordan, former Philippines 7s rugby player and founder of La Liga, said it was only right to include a touch football campaign with their player database. He said, “It has been a fruitful collaboration, with our production staff positively engaged in conceptualizing and manufacturing our largest kit range to date for the 2019 Touch World Cup.”

“It was during the Asian Club Championship 2017 that we were able to see first-hand the viability of hosting a Touch competition in Asia, along with access to an untapped target audience.”

“Bianca has a genuine passion for growing Touch and has displayed this through her various initiatives through FTFP and TAP” 

Other Sponsors

While LA LIGA is proving to be a fantastic partner for TAP, the federation has built wonderful past and present relationships with many Filipino firms. The list includes local airline GetGo by Cebu Pacific, Fitness First Philippines, hospitality firm AusPhin International Institute, meal plan provider PlanEat, Jollibee, Bamboo Private Islands, Fortune Life Insurance, Martek Constructions, and iInvest Securities.

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