The Asia Strategy of Celtic FC

A guest article by Cheng Zeng, in charge of the international business development at Celtic FC, about the club’s activities in Asia.

By Cheng Zeng

This article was initially published in the FBIN Magazine 28.
You can download the issue for free from our Content Hub.

Celtic Football Club was formed to do good. On November 6, 1887, Brother Walfrid founded the club to feed the poor and deprived children and unemployed of the East End of Glasgow and to give an under-privileged community a pride and an identity.

A Social Mission Statement summarises the Celtic outlook. While “the primary business of Celtic is as a football club” there is also “the responsibility of being a major Scottish social institution promoting health, well-being and social integration… regardless of gender, age, religion, race or ability”. 

The ethos of ‘Football for Good’ and the vision of inclusiveness and openness are two pillars for Celtic FC to drive its international strategy.

The Start

Celtic FC was one of the earliest UK football clubs opening to internationalists especially Asian players back to 2000 to 2010 era.

The club had successively signed Shunsuke Nakamura (2005) and Koki Mizuno (2008) from Japan, Cha Du-Ri (2010) and Ki Sung-Yueng (2010) from South Korea, Du Wei (2005) and Zheng Zhi (2009) from China, Mark Viduka (1998) and Scott McDonald (2007) from Australia.

The signing of the famous Asian stars and their successful career in Scotland gave the club a great opportunity to explore new business opportunity in the East of the world.

The Territories

Based on what the club have built up, Australia, Japan, China and South Korea are four key markets in Asia. But we are also working hard to expand our brand and business to Southeast Asia and Middle East.

Aussie Connections

Since Dan Lavery became the first ever Australian born player to play for Celtic in 1948-49, various Aussie stars have followed in his footsteps, most notably ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Tom Rogic. 

In June 2021, Ange Postecoglu was appointed the Celtic first team manager, becoming the first Australian to take charge of a major side in European football.

Harry Kewell joined the Celtic FC coaching team in the summer of 2022, becoming first team coach in Ange Postecoglou’s backroom team. And Aaron Mooy joined the Celtic first team in the summer of 2022 from Shanghai Port FC, China.

Celtic FC Women secured the services of highly-rated youngster Jacynta Galabadaarachchi in the winter transfer window of 2021. The 21-year-old player was named as the Women’s Young Player of the Year (2021/2022) at the PFA Scotland Awards.

Far East Connections

Kyogo Furuhashi arrived at Celtic Park in the summer of 2021 from Japanese side Vissel Kobe. He had a phenomenal start at the club with 7 goals in 9 games including a hat-trick at Celtic Park debut. His quick settle down and incredible success strengthened the club’s confidence to sign another three Japanese Internationalist Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate, Yosuke Ideguchi in January 2022.

The four Japanese Bhoys’ fantastic efforts, attitude and contribution to the club last year have been exemplary on and off the pitch. It would be true to say that they have raised the bar at Celtic Football Club.

On 23 November 2022, Celtic FC was delighted to announce the signing of Japanese central defender, Yuki Kobayashi. The 22-year-old player will be able to join up with his new Celtic team mates once the registration window opens in January 2023.

In July 2021, Shen Mengyu (right of the picture below), the 21-year-old young star made history to join Celtic FC and become the first ever Chinese women’s footballer in UK. With an eye for goal and an assist, Shen brings great techniques and experience to Celtic FC Women and she had a season to remember, winning team silverware – a League Cup and Scottish Cup Double.

Another Chinese international, the 20-year-old winger Shen Menglu (left of the picture below) joined Celtic FC Women in the summer of 2022 with immediate impact by scoring two goals.

Objectives in Asia


Celtic, as a brand, is massive in Europe. But in terms of international market and non-English speaking counties, we are facing strong competition with other European football giants. Developing Celtic brand awareness and ensuring our games are being shown in targeting countries are critical to our strategy.

Fan base.

“Football without fans is nothing“, is a famous quote attributed to legendary Celtic FC manager, Jock Stein as well as a perfect demonstration how the club appreciate the importance of growing supporters in the world.


Generating commercial revenues is a natural but ultimate goal for the club to enter a completely new market. It always requests significant time and effort investment, but we’d like to deliver a clear message that we are in this for the long term.

How to achieve the goals?

There are obviously very big cultural and language differences between Scotland and those countries in Asia such as Japan, South Korea and China. The overall key is to get in sync and establish a true connection with the audiences there by providing authentic and localized contents.

Taking Japan as an example, when the club announced Kyogo Furuhashi and got the chance to re-engage with Japanese fans, we immediately find a digital agency based in Japan to assist in the launch of Celtic FC Japanese website, Celtic FC Japan Twitter, Celtic FC Japan Online Store, and Celtic FC official SportsNavi (Yahoo! Sports) account. It gives the club a direct channel to know how Japanese fans think, act and response, and what they expect from the Japanese players and the club.

There are other ways to build brand and develop fan base, such as broadcast, media productions, live online events (such as virtual fan party), prize draw and promotions on social media, fan club, watch parties, legends and ambassador, player appearance, trophy tour, first team tour, charitable events, etc.

The invest of brand build would ultimately enable us to generate commercial revenues from the followings:

  • Sponsorship
  • Merchandise
  • Licensing
  • Celtic TV – broadcast and media productions
  • Match breaks (sports travel)
  • Club partnership programme
  • International soccer academy partnership programme
  • Team tour

Last, recruiting talented players from the targeting territories is extremely helpful for either brand build or business development over there. But when Celtic FC evaluate an opportunity, players’ ability and football reason are always come first.

The Achievements

Marketing Reach

SPFL and Celtic games have started to broadcast on DAZN in Japan in August 2021 and currently broadcasting on SPOTV NOW.

Our social media following in Japan continues to rise at a steady rate since it launched in the summer of 2021. The follower numbers of Celtic Japan Twitter have reached to nearly 70k which places Celtic as the 9th most popular European Football Club in Japan.

We have performed strongly on our video views on Sponavi with a total views 130.14M through 188 videos and a total views 2.06M through 95 articles since July 2021.

There were 100,000 visitors to Celtic TV website during 2020/2021 season. Top 5 countries for subscribers: 1. UK 2. USA 3. Australia 4. Canada 5. Japan.

The club have launched official Chinese digital accounts since 2014, including Weibo, Tencent Sports, Dongqiudi, and Hupu Sports.

  • First team tour – just completed Australia tour during World Cup break.
  • Sponsorship
  • Announced two Chinese sponsorship: Hytera (2016) and Dahua Technology (2020).
  • A South Korean sponsorship has been secured and will go to public shortly.
  • Merchandise & Licensing – have recently launched partnership with the famous Japanese football manga Aoashi to create co-branding merchandise.
  • Broadcast and media productions – constantly drive subscription revenue through Celtic TV in global and Asia market.
  • Club Partnership – signed a small youth football development project with the Chinese Super League club, Guangzhou R&F in 2017.
  • International Soccer Academy Partnership
  • Celtic FC is world famous for its soccer academy and youth footballer development. Before Covid, the club had over 70 international soccer academy partners in 22 countries.
  • Specifically in Asia, the club signed academy partners and launched soccer camps and coach education workshops in Australia, China, India, Kuwait and Malaysia in recent years.
  • The club welcomed the first ever Chinese youth team visit to Glasgow to train with Celtic Soccer Academy coach in the summer of 2019.
  • The first ever Celtic FC Japan soccer camp is on the way and will go to public shortly.

The next Steps

The clubs are passionately looking for Digital Media Partner to drive brand growth, Commercial Partner to explore new revenue streams, Football Partners (including club partner, soccer academy partner and women’s football partner) to deliver Celtic Football Philosophy, Travel Partner to provide money can’t buy match day experience, and Promoter or Presenter to organize a Celtic FC Japan Tour in the coming year.

About the author

Mr. Cheng Zeng, who graduated from the Football Industry MBA of University of Liverpool with a Merit in 2014, is a Chinese football business professional, with a profound knowledge of both global and Asian football industries. Cheng joined Celtic FC in 2014 and he is in charge of international business development and leads the Asian Project.

Photo: Vincenzo.togni (CC BY-SA 4.0)


UMPIRE: The One-Stop-Shop for Digital Needs in Sports Organisations
Top 10 job offers in football business | 2
Podcast Summary: Winning off-the-pitch in Southeast Asia with Borussia Dortmund
You can read the article if you are logged in
New to FBIN? Create my account