THE people who have the most influence over sports in Asia are among the most powerful on the continent. The impact of athletics on the world cannot be denied.
It brings cultures together and celebrates themes such as teamwork, competition, sportsmanship, and camaraderie. There are, however, a select few who are driving their respective sports into the future.
These individuals are shaping the sports world in Asia, continuously delivering compelling content to viewers in the world’s most populous continent. As we move to the close of another decade, we list down 2019’s Most Powerful People in Sports in Asia.
1) Gianni Infantino, FIFA
Football is still the most popular sport in the world, including in Asia. As such, Gianni Infantino is arguably the most powerful man in sports. Football is a sport with full penetration in Asia as the continent is football crazy. FIFA controls a multi-billion dollar industry, and Infantino sits on top of the mountain. Without a doubt, Infantino has shaped the landscape of sports in Asia, whether it is at the international or country levels. TV ratings continue to be some of the biggest in the region. With power move after power move, Infantino is our top choice for Asia’s most powerful person in sports.
2) Chatri Sityodtong, ONE Championship
The visionary entrepreneur behind the largest sports property in Asia has taken ONE Championship from startup to one of the world’s largest global sports properties. Under Sityodtong’s leadership, the billion dollar promotion has registered unprecedented tv ratings and exponential growth in digital metrics across 145 countries. Backed by blue chip institutional investors like Sequoia Capital and Temasek Holdings, ONE appears to be on the cusp of global dominance with its millennial fan base.
3) Adam Silver, NBA
The NBA is near as global of a property as FIFA. With such a broad interest in American basketball throughout China, Adam Silver’s league already has a massive imprint in one of Asia’s biggest markets. With Silver reinforcing his predecessor’s commitment to the globalization of the NBA, he is in a position of significant influence throughout Asia, and the entire world. NBA is clearly a top leader in the world of sports and its growth seems unstoppable.
4) Hamane Niang, FIBA
The former President of FIBA Africa since 2014 took over for Horacio Muratore as the new President of FIBA. Niang was unanimously elected as the 13th FIBA President on August 29, 2019, during the elective Congress in Beijing, China. Niang is a former Mali Minister of Sports who presided over FIBA Africa for the 2014–2019 term of office and was a member of the FIBA Central Board during the same period. With control over FIBA, Niang is now the man in charge of the second-most powerful basketball organization in the world.
5) John Malone, Formula One
Bernie Ecclestone is still the most visible face of F1 as its founder, but it is American billionaire John Malone pulling strings for the organization since he bought it in 2017. Malone’s organization has several variations, with the most popular one in Asia being the Singapore Grand Prix. Along with ONE Championship, F-1 events are among the grandest in the country and throughout Asia.
6) Hemang Amin, Indian Premier League
Cricket is massive throughout India. As an influential part of the BCCI and one of the key leaders of the Indian Premier League, few, if any, are more potent throughout the sport. The IPL is currently valued at over US$7 billion, and is India’s most prolific sports property. Interest in cricket is limited in Asia, but IPL has proven that single country sports properties can be big business. Amin oversees the most important decisions concerning the organization.
7) Manny Pacquiao, Boxer, Philippine Senator, MPBL Founder
Besides being one of the greatest boxers in history, Manny Pacquiao is also a promoter, investor and a senator in the Philippines. Total revenue is one thing, but there is also something to be said for the kind of influence that cannot be measured with dollars and sense. Without question, Pacquiao is the most influential person in his home country. He inspires people throughout Asia and into other sports, including founding the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, the fastest growing regional amateur basketball league in the Philippines. Pacquiao is one of the few athletes who can sell out any venue anywhere in the world. Because of his drawing power, it is impossible to ignore his influence.
8) Chen Xuyuan, Chinese Football Association
Like Niang, Chen Xuyuan succeeds a dignitary who had served a long and successful stint in his position at the head of one of the world’s most valuable sports organizations. Chen took over for Cai Zhenhua as the President of the Chinese Football Association. Chen takes on one of the fastest-growing football organizations in the world and is charged with maintaining the momentum.
9) Yao Ming, Chinese Basketball Association
One of the most influential people in the rise of basketball’s popularity in China is Yao Ming. The Basketball Hall of Famer has been the head of the Chinese Basketball Association since February 2017. With Yao in place as President, the CBA has experienced even more exponential growth. It has been established as an organization of merit by American basketball players as well as others from around the world.
10) Willie Marcial, PBA
Willie Marcial is the Commissioner of the Philippines Basketball Association. He is the man who calls the shots in the most prolific sports property in the Philippines. Basketball is a wildly popular sport in the Philippines, and perhaps the most widely played in the entire country. The premiere proving ground of men’s professional basketball in the Philippines is the PBA, which owns the distinction of being the first professional basketball league in Asia, and the second-oldest continuously existing league in the world apart from the National Basketball Association (NBA). The PBA played its first game in 1975, and today fuels a hoop-crazy nation that loves its basketball.