Eye on India: Chelsea's chief executive, Peter Kenyon
FOOTBALL in India is seen as a young sport and continues to grow apace, several leading business figures including Peter Kenyon, Chelsea's chief executive revealed at a special conference on Wednesday (June 3).
Speaking at the Business India Forum which brought together experts in sport and luxury branding, at Chelsea's ground, Kenyon said the next phases of development were some time off and Chelsea's strategy was a long-term one.
He also said the club had identified that football was very much a young man's sport in India.
“There is a generational gap. Young people say: 'Football is for me, cricket is for my Dad'.”
He stated that the Premier League and the sale of television rights had helped propel the profile of the country's top clubs in India. Stars such as David Beckham and Didier Drogba were familiar to many people.
“In India you can watch more live football than you can here in England. When the Premier League started the games were shown live in about 30 countries, today it is 210 and India is part of that. When I first went I was surprised by the level of knowledge – a minister even asked me, was it true Didier Drogba was leaving.”
He said Chelsea were involved in India, as they were with China, because there was an opportunity to make money but he cautioned those who might see instant riches and said factors beyond any one person's control would determine the ultimate profitability of football businesses in India.
“We are there to make money in the long term and we can try to influence and be involved in football and the wider game.”
He felt football had much to offer in the way of social programmes and healthcare initiatives with young people and Chelsea had participated projects in the past and was continuing to explore ways of expanding their reach through such means.
“Education and health is one way,” he told the audience of business leaders and entrepreneurs.
But to ultimately go forward, he said India either needed one of its players to play in the Premier League or one of the big European ones, or have an international team capable of playing at the highest level and qualifying for a World Cup.
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