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Kenyon’s Kerfuffles

January 10th, 2006 by · No Comments · Features, Football

?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,"

Funny, but this is exactly how over 95% of fans talk about their teams in the pub when putting the world to rights over a few beers. And that, in a nutmeg, is the problem. Fans look at Peter Kenyon and they see everything that they believe is wrong with the game they love. It?s not him per se (alright, Baldylocks are never very popular, and millionaire, marketing ones, even less so.), but what he represents.

We could jump on the bandwagon and sneer too, but in fact, what he does represent is more interesting than any amusing chants we may come up with.

First a few facts about the man himself: He played as an amateur and as a younger man watched Manchester United win the European cup in 1968. In 1986 he joined Umbro in Manchester where he became Managing Director focussing the company on football before engineering its sale in 1992 to an American company. He was made Chief Executive of Umbro Europe and then Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Umbro International Worldwide. It was this rise that interested Man Utd. in 1997.

Leaving the CV there for a minute [after all, he already has a job], you can see that Peter Kenyon is a man for the era of the Premiership boom. He is in a fairly unique position in football.

Most businessmen who get involved in the game are either in the ?8-year old boy? mode of once having wished they could play, finding they were better at business, then going back to pump a few of their hard earned million into the club they kicked cans outside as a nipper [think Jack Walker], or their family have been involved for years [think the Shepherd?s at Newcastle, the pre-Kenyon Edward?s at Man Utd.]. Either way, most are in at Chairman level.

Kenyon is a chief executive. He is doing what he was doing at Umbro. He is running a business. He is responsible for strategy, growth, focus and most importantly, delivering maximum value to the shareholders [or in Chelsea?s case, shareholder]. It is this that riles fans because right in front of them is a man who is doing what he is paid to do: Build a business and a brand. It just so happens that it is a football club.

This leads to fans responding to the ?own London? quote on Blogs and chatrooms with missives such as:

?Chelsea will pick up a load of bandwagon jumpers, who were probably supporting Man. United two years ago, but the real fans will stick with their own teams who they follow through family tradition, geographical location and years of supporting in good times and bad.

Supporting a football team is not like choosing a Pepsi over a Coke just because one's got Beyonce in the commercial, but it?s something Kenyon, Abramovich and Chelsea?s nouveau fans probably won't understand.?

At Chelsea, Kenyon is the spokesman for the non-footballing side of the club, [with that other shrinking violet, their manager, handling the playing side] so it?s not surprising that he uses language that fans find disconcerting.

The truth, whether fans like or not, is that the game we all love has changed and this change is primarily a commercial one. Clubs have fans, the ones that they use and abuse year in year out. They can rely on them. It?s ?customers? they are now pursuing, the people who align themselves to brands and personalities. Apple computer are a fine example. For years, the Mac buyer [the fan, if you like] has been treated terribly by Apple, but still they keep coming back. However, Apple has reached a new audience through the iPod, people who like the product, what it says and what it does. This is what Kenyon is attempting to do for Chelsea. After all, Stamford Bridge can only fit in 42,000. Chelsea and their sponsors want everyone else.

Lastly, it?s worth remembering that Pepsi recently eclipsed Coca-Cola and are now the biggest drinks company in the world. They did it primarily by expanding into other drinks sectors such as fruit juices. Football is product and products are sold by people like Peter Kenyon.

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