AFC signs "Vision China" MOU with Chelsea FC

English Premier League champions Chelsea is officially backing the Asian Football Confederation's "Vision" project to develop grass-roots football in China. Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon and AFC President Mohamed bin Hammam (pictured right at the Qingdao city league awards) signed a memorandum of understanding that the London club would provide technical and financial assistance to the program.

Bin Hammam, who has been critical of big European clubs coming on lucrative tours to Asia and leaving nothing behind, agreed it was "an historic moment" because "this is the first time a [European] club came to us and said 'take' and did not take from us."

"It fits absolutely with Chelsea's vision of being one of the big clubs by 2014," Kenyon told Nick Mulvenney of Reuters. "We've been successful on the field and what we're about is building a successful sustainable team and this is an extension of that. (But) we're not in this to get players cheaply or to come on tour or do those things. What we're talking about is investment in a long-term market and looking to support the local product, which is critical. It's really important for global football that Asian football is developing and then there's a benefit for everyone."

Kenyon said although there would be a financial element to the deal, Chelsea would primarily be looking to help out in marketing, media, training and sports medicine. "They're all core components of what we do every day and it's really evaluating those and bringing those to the table. What we're talking about is being a long-term partner," he said.

Vision China, part of the AFC's continental Vision Asia program, has successfully launched 10-team metro leagues in the Chinese cities of Qingdao and Wuhan and the project will now be extended to 15 cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

"What I've experienced in the last two days has been quite remarkable," said Kenyon at the Vision China Football Development Conference in Qingdao. "I think it's as exciting a football project as any that's going on in the world. They've proved in these two cities that it's not theoretical, it's really working."

See also: AFC and China FA meet with China Sports Minister (24 Apr) and Chelsea FC meets with China Football Association (12 Apr) and Chelsea FC an official London ambassador to China (8 Apr) and Chelsea to China and USA to become 'World No 1' (30 Mar) and Chelsea for partnering not exploiting Asian football (2 Mar).