English champions Chelsea agreed yesterday to give their backing
to an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) project to develop
grass-roots football in China.
Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon and AFC President Mohamed
bin Hammam signed a memorandum of understanding that the London
club would provide technical and financial assistance to the Vision
China development programme.
Kenyon, who has identified China and North America as Chelsea's
key markets outside England, said the partnership was very
different from previous attempts by European clubs to break into
the Asian markets.
"It fits absolutely with Chelsea's vision of being one of the
big clubs by 2014," said Kenyon, whose previous club Manchester
United also made a big push into Asia.
"We've been successful on the field and what we're about is
building a successful sustainable team and this is an extension of
"(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
"It's really important for global football that Asian football
is developing and then there's a benefit for everyone."
Bin Hammam, who has been critical of big European clubs coming
on lucrative tours to Asia and leaving nothing behind, agreed it
was a unique partnership.
"It's an historic moment because this is the first time a club
came to us and said 'take' and did not take from us," Bin Hammam
told reporters at the Vision China conference in Qingdao.
"This is the first time a European club has come to us and
offered help in development."
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," he said.
"What we're talking about is being a long-term partner."
Vision China is part of a broader Vision Asia programme, under
which AFC teams go into cities and provide training and advice to
build up local leagues.
Leagues in the cities of Qingdao and Wuhan have just completed
one season 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. "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."
(China Daily April 26, 2006)