NIALL Quinn will hit the ground running in his new role as Sunderland’s head of international development by flying out with manager Steve Bruce to South Korea this week looking to attract massive investment into the club.
The news yesterday evening that Quinn was stepping down as Sunderland’s chairman after five years in charge took many by surprise, but the major trip to the Far East – the area which is set to emerge as the key market for lucrative sponsorships – will begin to put the move into context.
The long-distance trip is part of a concerted effort by the Wearsiders to build up links in a part of the world which is likely to become strategically vital to the club over the next few years.
And with potential for future naming rights for the Stadium of Light, not to mention various sponsorships on offer, the club will hope that the stage is set for lucrative investment from the Far East in the near future; investment which could help underpin the whole future of the club and help take it to the next level.
For some time now, Quinn has made no secret of his ambition to make Sunderland more of a global brand.
And the recent appointment of Mike Farnan to the board as international and national marketing director will only help in that direction.
Farnan is a former managing director of Manchester United International – a division of the club set up to grow the Red Devils’ brand in Asia, the Middle East and Oceania regions – and Quinn commented on the appointment: “Mike has an enormous amount of new ideas and contacts, plus a massively impressive track record in football worldwide.
“He is excited by the challenge of taking us into new and exciting markets as we look to maximise the vast potential I know this club has.”
For the moment, that focus appears to lie in the Far East – an area of the world where owner Ellis Short does most of his business.
On top of that, vice-chairman David Miliband also has strong contacts with power-brokers and influential figures in Asia and the club is hoping that all that expertise can come together for the long-term benefit of the club.
A fact-finding mission to the region for preparatory work was carried out by the club earlier this season, paving the way for this week’s high-profile visits both from Bruce and Quinn.
And if the charm offensive pays dividends, then Sunderland could be on the verge of a new era in terms of its financial potential.
Bruce and Quinn are due to attend several functions over the weekend before the manager watches South Korea’s World Cup qualifying game against the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday night and then flying immediately back home.
It is a potentially gruelling schedule for the Black Cats’ manager, who will arrive back on Wearside next Thursday, just 72 hours ahead of the game against Arsenal on Sunday.
But if it is part of a process which brings new revenue streams into Sunderland, both he and the club will be happy.
Quinn, meanwhile, will be working with Farnan in meeting a range of contacts hoping to progress financial interest in the club.
In all of this, summer signing Ji Dong-won may well prove to be the ace in Sunderland’s pack.
The South Korean striker is regarded as a potential superstar of the future in his home country and as Bruce watches him in action next Tuesday, he might reflect that the young striker could prove to be the most attractive selling point of all for Far East investors.