Chelsea FC don’t have the kind of fan-following in the subcontinent as other Premier League giants Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Being beaten by all three to the lucrative Indian market though hasn’t fazed the reigning Champions League winners.
The west London club, according to their CEO Ron Gourlay, has a long-term plan for India, one which could see its first team tour the country in 2015-16 pre-season. Here for the International Football Arena summit, Gourlay is confident Chelsea FC will follow a path similar to the markets where they’ve achieved success.
“We’ll follow a similar cycle (to the one is Malaysia, Thailand and the USA). The earliest we can get the first team down here is 2015-16. The planning we put into a tour, with our various CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities and campaigns such as Blue Pitch, starts six months before the tour.
“It’s a model that’s been successful the world over and has helped Chelsea FC substantially expand our fan base around the world. It’s the sort of footprint that allows us leave a legacy and engage our fans and let them feel touched, because not everyone can make the trip to west London,” he told HT.
On the proliferation of billionaire owners with Manchester City, PSG, Anzhi Makhachkala, all following a model that was championed by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, Gourlay said: “You have to understand that the game is changing. With the new Financial Fairplay rules coming into effect (it will be actively monitored from 2013–14 but will take into account losses made in 2011–12 and 2012–13), billionaire owners can’t inject cash into a football club like in the past. Has that effected owners coming into the Premiership? I don’t know.”
Since Abramovich’s $140 million takeover in 2003 and the subsequent injection of obscene amounts, Chelsea have won three EPL titles and are the champions of Europe having stunned Barcelona and Bayern Munich en route.