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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 09:42 GMT
Kenyon upbeat on Premier TV deal
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter at the Soccerex conference in Dubai

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon
Mr Kenyon said the next TV deal would be "critically important"
Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon has said he believes the Premier League can match the 1bn ($1.7bn) value of its last television deal.

This is despite being told by the EU to change the way contracts are awarded.

The European Commission wants a "viable and meaningful" share of live matches after the current deal, in which BSkyB holds all live rights, ends in 2007.

Mr Kenyon told the Soccerex conference in Dubai he was "fully confident" that previous funding levels could be met.

He added that the forthcoming deal was "crucially important" for the game's wellbeing.

Funding from television was the catalyst which had made the Premier League successful over the past 13 years, Mr Kenyon said, and had helped to fund the building of new stadiums in England.

Great show

However, he warned that there had to be a balance between the number of games on television and ensuring that stadiums were full.

"We do not want the doomsday scenario where stadiums are empty but we are getting all our money from television," he said.

"It is having full stadiums that make the great TV spectacles."

Players compete for a ball in front of a half empty stand
Even at the highest level, stadiums are left with empty seats

In August 2003, the Premier League awarded all four of its rights packages to Sky in a deal worth 1.024bn.

There have been a number of recent meetings between Premier League executives and the Commission to try and seek a compromise over the make-up of the next deal, which will cover the 2007-2010 seasons.

It is understood the League is proposing to offer six packages of 23 matches each, with no single broadcaster permitted to buy more than five.

If the EC is satisfied with the League's clarification of certain aspects of the intended bidding process, then those balances should form part of a final proposal to be submitted to Brussels for Competition Commissioner Nellie Kroes' approval.

"In the short and medium term... the next TV deal is critically important," said Mr Kenyon.

Other important issues facing the game at present were ensuring that both clubs and national teams were satisfied with their access to players, and a perceived dip in the number of fans attending live matches.

Tug of war

Mr Kenyon, who has overseen the buying of many global stars by the Premiership champions Chelsea, said clubs and world governing bodies had to come together to discuss issues of compensation for top clubs who release players for international games, and an attempt had to be made to draw up a cohesive international football calendar.

"It is a fact many players get back [from international duty] on a Thursday, and they will have a big game on the Saturday," he observed.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba watches the ball
Players like Didier Drogba have to travel for national team matches

"In the last week at Chelsea all but four of our players were away on international duty. Football can't keep piling more and more games on, many of them meaningless friendlies.

"The authorities and clubs have to get round the table, it can't be beyond the brains of all of us to find a solution."

While noting that Chelsea had suffered from empty seats in the early rounds of the Champions League this season, he put this down to the opposition and timing of the games at the start of the season, and went on to say that "keeping the domestic league healthy" was of prime importance.

"The Premier League is a great product, one of the best in the world, and gets fantastic exposure on TV, but we can't become complacent," Mr Kenyon continued.

He denied claims that the competition was becoming stale, with only a handful of clubs capable of winning it, among them Chelsea who are bankrolled by Roman Abramovich's billions.

"It is competitive - there is not a game we go into that we take for granted to get a result. We sell out our Premier League games, which are over-subscribed."

Staying put

He said Chelsea remained committed to the competition and that no moves were afoot among leading sides in Europe to create a Super League.

"We don't want to play AC Milan or Bayern Munich every week - it is not what our supporters want," he said.

Mr Kenyon reiterated his previous desire to see Chelsea profitable within five years.

"We are continually checking our costs on and off the field, and looking to increasing revenues domestically and internationally," he said.

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