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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Will Kenyon's business nous work for Chelsea?
By Briony Hale
BBC News Online business reporter

Football at back of net
Can Peter Kenyon net profits for Chelsea?
Exit Trevor Birch, the insolvency expert and chief executive of Chelsea football club.

His brief was to chip away at Chelsea's crippling debt mountain by squeezing more out of certain assets and selling-off the rest - a job, many would have said, that had pretty good long-term prospects.

But Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich saved him the bother by clearing the 80m backlog with a single swipe, effectively eliminating Mr Birch's role and relegating him to the more lowly position of financial controller.

With the debt and bankruptcy fears wiped away, the club can now begin to concentrate on making money rather than merely trying to survive with its losses.

Enter Peter Kenyon, ex-chief executive of Manchester United, the most profitable football club around.

Cutting the deals

"The chief executive of a football club is there to convert success on the pitch into money," says Stefan Szymanski, professor of economics and strategy at Imperial College, London.

Presumably, Peter Kenyon will do the same thing as he did before, and presumably he will be successful at it
Prof Stefan Szymanski
Football economist

"And the quality of the chief executive depends on how fast they can bring the money in."

Mr Kenyon, so far, has the best track record in the game.

His past success was based on using his marketing expertise to turn Manchester United into a powerful international brand and win it unprecedented sponsorship deals.

It was Mr Kenyon who brokered United's record-breaking 303m marketing deal with Nike, negotiated the 30m shirt sponsorship deal with Vodafone and had the vision to woo international fans with summer tours abroad.

"He's changed the rules of the game in terms of sponsorship - the deals that he's cut are of an order larger than any other club has managed to do," says Professor Tom Cannon, a football expert at Kingston business school.


And experts think he will be able to pull off the same tricks at another club.

Chelsea fans
Chelsea wants to expand its fan base
"He'll take all his sponsorship contacts with him, and the sponsorship world revolves around contacts," Mr Szymanski told BBC News Online.

"Presumably, Peter Kenyon will do the same thing as he did before, and presumably he will be successful at it."

First off, however, Mr Kenyon is expected to concentrate on turning Chelsea into something it clearly is not - an internationally-renowned football team.

"It's all about getting the fans in other countries to spend money as a demonstration of how much they like the club," says Mr Szymanski.

"Clearly lots of UK football clubs have the potential to do that, not just Manchester United."

Mr Cannon agrees. "Abramovich has given him [Peter Kenyon] a massive opportunity to show what he can do with almost unlimited funds to make this football club a global brand in the way which Manchester United is."


So, while the sports world is shocked by the desertion of Mr Kenyon - formerly a self-declared diehard United fan - the move gets the thumbs-up in the business community.

Some say that the transfer of executives has long been a logical development waiting to happen.

Football, once seen as a financial disaster zone, has been scared into recognising the importance of money management.

And poaching bosses with business nous could well be the way to instil the new culture.

Mr Kenyon, meanwhile, has already learnt that money, sometimes, has to come first. He is reportedly doubling his 625,000 salary.

If football clubs continue to develop an increasingly professional attitude to football finances, Mr Kenyon's transfer may be the start of a new trend, Mr Szymanski says.

But he also warns that, with a dearth of experience to draw on from within the football community, the wave of new chief executives are likely to come from outside.

Former Chelsea chief exec Colin Hutchinson
"It's unbelievable, they've got the number one chief executive"

Will Man Utd suffer without Peter Kenyon?
5847 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Man Utd chief joins Chelsea
09 Sep 03  |  Man Utd
Profile: Peter Kenyon
08 Sep 03  |  Eng Prem
Is the balance of power switching?
08 Sep 03  |  Eng Prem


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