How powerful can one person be in a particular sport without being a commissioner or a franchise’s principal owner? WIth his handiwork all over multiple franchises, Larry Lucchino would be a baseball example, though he’s never been in the awkward position of say, representing the Yankees shortly before becoming part of Red Sox management. Departing Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon, however, is a rare case, having presided over the West London club’s commerical ambitions shortly after playing a high profile role in Manchester United’s transformation into a global brand. A day after Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat of Porto in the Champions League, Kenyon’s exit is a matter of reflection for the Independent’s Glenn Moore, who writes, “a salesman left Stamford Bridge yesterday, not a football man.”
By circumstance or choice he has been a regular in front of the cameras, and he has often made a fool of himself when doing so. There has been the annual assertion, only recently dropped in the face of continuing mountainous losses, that Chelsea would break even as a business by the end of this season. Then there was the boast that the Premier League winners would come from “a small group of one”, followed by the demand for two Champions League successes in six years. He has said he wants Chelsea “to own London” in terms of support and will “turn the world blue”. Only this month Kenyon insisted, “I think we can win everything,” thus putting Carlo Ancelotti on notice that a quadruple was expected.
Before all this, of course, he declared that joining Manchester United was a dream come true for a lifelong fan, a love which began when his electrician father took him to Wembley to watch United lift the European Cup in 1968. He was such a fan that he walked out on Old Trafford when Roman Abramovich called, precipitating that uncomfortable afternoon of abuse, sitting alongside his own teenage son.
Chelsea supporters’ initial distrust of “the Manc in a suit” has never dissipated, rising anew after the 2008 European Cup final when Kenyon “ 40 years after cheering on United against Benfica in the final “ led Chelsea up the steps in Moscow and allowed Michael Platini to hang a loser’s medal round his neck.