Chelsea chief backs collective TV rights sale

LONDON - Maintaining the collective sale of TV rights is crucial to preventing further financial polarisation and keeping the Premier League ahead of Spain's Primera Liga, says Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon. While big clubs in Spain and Italy have profited from exploiting TV rights individually, a collective approach has given the Premier League a competitive edge, according to Kenyon. "The collective sale of TV rights has served the Premier League extremely well since it was conceived and we'd be absolutely against breaking the current model," Kenyon told Reuters in a telephone interview ahead of the new season. "If you look at the spread of monies between bottom and top it's the lowest in the major leagues. It is the health of the league ultimately that allows individual clubs to be strong. "I'm all for competition but not at the expense of a Chelsea going out and selling its own rights. That would be to the long term detriment of the league and of Chelsea," added Kenyon. The London club enjoy the backing of billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich, who has ploughed in hundreds of millions of pounds since 2003. The days when Chelsea were Europe's biggest spenders are gone, however, with Manchester City and Real Madrid eclipsing them in the transfer market of late. Real have signed the likes of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo in the close season and there is a sense the Premier League's status as the world's best could be under threat. "Over the past three or four years the league that's most enjoyable to watch after the Premier League is Spain so you have to see them as a long term threat," Kenyon said. "What makes the Premiership attractive to everybody is the quality of the games right the way through the 20 clubs. At any time the top team can lose to the bottom and that very rarely happens in the other big European leagues." DOUBLED REVENUE Kenyon joined Chelsea from Manchester United soon after Abramovich's takeover and in the last five years the club's annual revenue has doubled. They recently extended their shirt sponsorship deal with Samsung and have inked an agreement with online gaming firm 188BET with an eye on expansion in Asia. Kenyon said the economic climate meant the club had to work harder to secure the deals they need to grow revenue and get closer to break-even point, after posting a 65.7 million pounds loss last year. "I've been in football for 15 years and the revenue has continued to grow, thank goodness," he said. "But these things are hotly contested. We're talking about serious companies, who want value for money, quite rightly. "For me to sit here and say we're going to double our turnover again is a very different challenge to what it was five years ago, particularly within this climate," added Kenyon. Last year's results included a hit of more than 23 million pounds paid to former managers Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant, so for more reasons than one they could do with new coach Carlo Ancelotti hanging around for a while. "We're very hopeful Carlo will stay for years to come, not just from a bank balance point of view but from a success, continuity and trophy point of view," Kenyon said. "We've no external debt, which is extremely positive, so I think we're in a very strong position and Roman is absolutely committed to the club in the long term."