Monday, January 08, 2007

Chelsea using China to be biggest club by 2014

In Beijing, China, to launch the English champions' Mandarin-language website, Chelsea FC chief executive Peter Kenyon said the Chinese market had been a target since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. "When we took over Chelsea....we set out a vision that by 2014 we would be the biggest football club in the world. That was a big vision, a big ask and predicated on three things. Firstly, a successful football team, secondly, we had to be in China and in a much more meaningful way than coming back every two years for a team tour," he told Nick Mulvenney of Reuters.

The third principle of working with credible long-term partners was fulfilled in this case, he said, by running the web site (www.chelsea.sina.com.cn) with Sina, China's biggest internet portal. "There was a lot of noise about us coming out with a statement like that but it was about galvanising and giving direction to the club to be honest," Kenyon added. "If you look at it three years in, then I think we're well on track ... but it's a long road."

Chelsea group business affairs director Paul Smith said he expected the website to be revenue-generating in the first year. He said the club believed they were already in the "top four or five" best supported foreign clubs in China and were already looking to raise their profile in South Korea and India. "You can't take a single approach to Asia ... you've got to look at each market place," he added. "But we are there or thereabouts in every market."

Although Chelsea are already committed to touring the United States in the English summer, a tour of China is likely next year, China's Olympic year. "I'm sure 2008 would be the year to do it," Kenyon said. "But no plans have been made yet."

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