Kenyon says Chelsea must ditch 'rebel' tag to help game prosper

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The Independent Football

In an interview today with The Independent, Kenyon explained why he thought Chelsea had incurred the distrust of other clubs but also outlined an aggressive strategy for expanding the fan base of Roman Abramovich's club both in London and around the world.

Kenyon, who has found himself at the centre of "tapping-up" rows involving Arsenal's Ashley Cole, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand and the England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, admitted that his club's methods sometimes rankled with rivals.

"Perhaps at the moment we are seen as a bit of a rebel and that's not an objective, we don't want to be seen as that," he said. "There are several reasons for it; the Ashley Cole issue, the fact that we have had so much success so quickly and displaced some of the traditional clubs up there, the impact of Jose Mourinho and the fact that the owner is extremely wealthy."

Kenyon, emphasising his presence on committees of football governing bodies at home and abroad, said Chelsea were making great efforts to be part of the establishment. "What I can assure you of is that we want to work within the system," he said. "We are far from rebels and want to do everything we can to make the industry strong because that's fundamental to any English club being strong. One of our first priorities is to make sure the Premier League retains its presence because that's such a big marketing tool for us. We have managed over the last 10 years to make sure that Italian football, German football and Spanish football is second to Premier League football. That's a big priority for myself and my team."

Kenyon outlined his strategy for building Chelsea into a global brand. In language that will concern rivals in the capital, the Chelsea chief executive said he wanted the Stamford Bridge club to "own London".

Kenyon said that by making Chelsea known around the world as "the" London team, he would be able to exploit the city's international reputation and build the global fan base of the club. "The importance of London is critical in our strategy. London today is one of the top three cities in the world. The first objective is to own London. When we talk about internationalising the brand, the first thing we want to do is get critical mass within our own territory, then start to build internationally," said the Chelsea chief executive.

Already London's dominant club on the field, Chelsea are anxious to no longer be seen as a West London club. Kenyon said Chelsea had deliberately been the first club to support the London Olympic bid, even though most events will take place in eastern areas of the capital.

From next summer, Chelsea and sponsors Adidas will launch a major cross-London community initiative aimed at securing the loyalties of children in all areas of the capital. "I don't think there are any boundaries in terms of attracting supporters," says Kenyon. "There are more and more kids starting to support Chelsea. What they are buying into is a successful team, one with stars and charisma through its manager and the way it plays.

"Chelsea represents being identifiable with London. It is identifiable with entertainment and the King's Road. That's one of our differentiations from other clubs," said Kenyon.

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