Malaysia Sports & Esports: Growth Potential & Future Opportunities

In this article, we will explore the current state, analyze the growth potential, and identify future opportunities for investors and brands to capitalize on. With a rich history in sports and a young population, the country has substantial potential for growth in both sectors.

Malaysia is the sixth largest country in Southeast Asia with a population of approximately 33 million people. It boasts of an incredible internet penetration rate (99%), a high literacy rate (99.7% for youth aged 15-24), and a staggeringly low unemployment rate of just 2% in 2023, Malaysia offers a highly enticing market for brands, investors, and expansion into Asia.

The Malaysian economy is characterized by its diversity and is projected to achieve a GDP growth of 4.5% in 2023, with further improvements anticipated in the years ahead, driven by advancements in tourism, domestic demand, and of course, the sports and esports industry.

Malaysian Sports: State of Play

The sports industry in Malaysia is a significant contributor to the country’s economy, contributing US$ 21.89 billion / RM101.72 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. The revenue in the Sports & Outdoor market in Malaysia is projected to reach US$137.40m in 2023. The revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 9.24%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$196m by 2027.

The Malaysian government has outlined a massive US$ 73 Million Budget in 2023:
– US$ 34 million / RM154 million meant for the development of a comprehensive sports ecosystem, which involves identifying new talents, training programs, and equipping sports facilities.
– US$ 32 million / RM145 million is for the maintenance, upgrading and building of sports facilities throughout the country.
– US$ 6 million / RM29 million for Motorsport development.
– US$3 million / RM13 million has been reserved for Esports.

Football is the most popular sport in Malaysia, with the Malaysian Football League being the top-tier professional league in the country. With 13 million fans, football dominates fandom in the country, with the Premier League getting the lion’s share of the support.

As we extensively covered in our previous articles on Thailand & Vietnam, a vast majority of these fans are between 18-34 years old. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has a long-standing history in Malaysia dating as far back as 1965, when it moved its secretariat from Hong Kong to Penang. On May 17, 2000, the AFC found a new permanent home – the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur as well.

Love for the beautiful game is evidenced also by the upcoming combined ASEAN (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand & Vietnam) FIFA World Cup bid for 2034. Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan owns Cardiff City FC and Air Asia Founder Tony Fernandes owned Queen’s Park Rangers for almost 13 years, until selling his stake in July 2023.

Despite the popularity of football, there is potential for growth in other sports. There are established professional leagues in Basketball (MPL D-League), Futsal (MPFL), and Field Hockey (MHL). Badminton and Sepak Takraw continue to be wildly popular. In addition, the Badminton World Federation (BWF – international governing body of the sport of badminton) is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.

Malaysia has hosted international events in badminton, including the Badminton World Federation’s World Championships and the Thomas & Uber Cup. The annual Badminton tournament, the ‘Malaysia Open’ is one of the most prestigious events in the world. With a storied history and multiple world-class athletes – Malaysia is well poised to produce more local champions and properties with the right investment and support to diversify its revenue streams in sports.


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