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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April 2005, 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK
Kenyon plots Chelsea's business future
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter at the Soccerex conference

Peter Kenyon with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Mr Kenyon insists Mr Abramovich is good news

While most big UK football clubs are looking to Asia and the US to build on their brands, Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon has surprised the soccer industry by saying that Russia is the club's second biggest potential market outside England.

Speaking at this week's Soccerex football finance seminar in London, Mr Kenyon said the vast nation came before China and the US in the club's future marketing and branding plans.

Chelsea was bought by Russian magnate Roman Abramovich for 140m in 2003, and since then he has pumped millions into the club to buy players.

Mr Kenyon said Chelsea would focus on four key markets, "London, Russia, where we feel we have a competitive advantage, China - not Asia - and north America.

Our priority is the Premier League, then the Champions League or another European competition
Peter Kenyon

"There is a lot of money in Asia, and we are going back to the US, but merely doing three games in a 10-day flying visit will never build a brand in an overseas country."

Mr Kenyon insisted that going beyond that would be both time consuming and costly.

"It is a long-term overseas plan involving investment partnerships, games, and media initiatives; in fact all the things that you have to do in a home market you also have to do in other markets in order to support your brand."

Chelsea should build a successful domestic brand before thinking about making major inroads into other markets, he insisted.

'A winning heritage'

The former Manchester United chief executive also believes that off-field commercial success is pointless unless it is accompanied by success on the playing field.

This season's Chelsea team has lifted the Carling Cup, is poised to clinch their first league championship in 50 years, and is in the Champions League semi-finals.

Chelsea captain John Terry, right, with team-mate Frank Lampard
Chelsea are set to tour the US again, after visiting in 2004

"It is critical for us to have playing success," says Mr Kenyon.

"The first priority at Chelsea is to build a sustainable, successful football team - one that can provide a winning heritage.

"Then we want to become self-sufficient off the pitch, without relying on a single benefactor. That is possible."

Despite this desire, Mr Kenyon insisted Roman Abramovich has been "good for Chelsea" since he did not just buy the club, but also wanted it to succeed.

'Match experience'

Mr Kenyon said the plan for the Blue will hopefully mean the business becomes profitable within the next five years.

In his opinion, all the clubs in the Premier League, including Chelsea, benefit from being part of a successful domestic competition that is closely followed at home and abroad.

Keeping the game attractive to broadcasters would therefore be key, he observed.

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A World Cup for clubs is not something that attracts me. I think we have got enough football already
Peter Kenyon

"Televised football is paramount to keeping fans going to football matches" since it helps Premier League to "showcase [the] product", he says.

"It also allows a vast amount of money to come into the game, which clubs require.

"As long as the product continues to be best available, I don't think we are seeing television impacting on the game to the extent that fans are not coming to games any more. You can't beat the match experience.

"But we can't become complacent, we have to keep the league the key league in the world."

Playing objectives

Mr Kenyon rejected suggestions that a new world club championship was something the world's biggest clubs would need as a means of increasing their revenues.

Jose Mourinho, Peter Kenyon
Mr Kenyon says success for Jose Mourinho's team is essential

"A World Cup for clubs is not something that attracts me. I think we have got enough football already. We don't need to develop another football tournament that takes up three to four weeks each season. It is just impractical.

"I have talked about monitoring the quality of the Premier League.

"Our priority is the Premier League, then the Champions League or another European competition."


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