Chelsea for partnering not exploiting Asian football

Asian football development appears to have scored a major victory in the battle to convince leading European clubs to partner with locals in promoting football over the long-term in Asia, the world's most populous region, rather than making short-term exploitation raids.

English Premier League champion, Chelsea FC, wants to help develop football in China and boost its commercial appeal in Asia by joining forces with the Asian Football Confederation. Bloomberg reports that Peter Kenyon, Chelsea's chief executive, held talks with AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam in Kuala Lumpur yesterday about playing a role in Vision China - the AFC's program for overhauling the sport's coaching and administration.

"It's not about us saying we know how to do Asia better than anybody here," Kenyon said. "It's about us saying `we've got some skills, you've got some vision, how can we work together to make it happen quicker?'"

Chelsea is shunning Manchester United's approach of trying to boost its business in Asia by playing exhibition matches and opening superstores. The London club wants to work with the football community to build long-term partnerships, Kenyon said.

"What was right for United was right at the time but the region has moved on and Chelsea's position and heritage is very different to United's," said Kenyon, who was chief executive at United before joining Chelsea. "We are taking a longer-term view and genuinely believe that the Asian Football Confederation is probably the best partner to be associated with."

Kenyon said Chelsea might provide technical and coaching expertise and advice on administration -- one of the major drives of bin Hammam's country-by-country Vision project. Kenyon is flying to Beijing this week for talks with the Chinese Football Association.

Chelsea, owned and bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (pictured right), may also lend its 20 million-pound ($35-million) training facility to the Chinese team at the London Olympics in 2012, Kenyon said.

AFC's Hammam said he was delighted to share plans with Chelsea. "I welcome the opportunity to seek mutual ground, and to demonstrate what can be achieved through bringing the right stakeholders on board ... Vision China has proven that Vision Asia works.

"In order for it to be sustainable over the long-term, we are now looking to engage the commercial sector in order for us to reach the grassroots level on a wider scale, to increase participation through the school leagues, achieve development both on and off the pitch with the city leagues, and ultimately provide a platform for greater success in China as a whole.

"Speaking in commercial terms, this programme provides a route to market that is not comparable with any other football product that currently exists," he said as quoted by AFCMedia.

"Asian officials have criticized European teams including United and Real Madrid for playing matches in the region without contributing to the sport's development. At the same time, clubs have struggled to turn their popularity in football-mad Asia into profit. United, which played in Beijing in July, gets less than 5 percent of revenue from outside the UK," Bloomberg commented.

"One thing Chelsea doesn't want to do is to come in for two weeks, tour and leave," Kenyon said. "We're looking for a sustainable program and a partnership to help develop the sport and at the same time ensure Chelsea becomes part of the very fabric of football in Asia.

"Chelsea’s mission is to build success, not buy success. This is directly compatible with the AFC’s plans. From what I’ve seen today with AFC’s development programme, Vision Asia, it will not be long before Asian football is on a par with European football. More importantly, they are very targeted, and committed to delivering logical, quality programmes that provide long-term benefits. This is definitely where Chelsea wants to be positioned also,” he said.

Chelsea, which is closing on its second straight Premiership title, plans to become the most internationally recognized club over the next decade, he added.

See also: Chelsea's Kenyon outlines global growth strategy (13 Nov) and English Premier League to cooperate with Asia (22 Sep) and and Asian Confed warns big clubs over exploitation (2 Sept) and Asia disappointed with many touring clubs ( 31 July)and FIFA: money-spinning tours harm Asian leagues (28 July)