Chelsea have hired the UK-based agency ECN Management to exploit the commercial potential in the Chinese market of some of their top players.
The Premier League champions control the image rights of nineteen of their highest profile players, including January signings Fernando Torres and David Luiz, and will entrust ECN Management with finding new branding opportunities in China and other countries in the region. The club are currently looking for new revenue streams and reduce their dependence on Russian owner Roman Abramovich and come into line with upcoming Uefa Financial Fair Play regulations. From the 2013/14 season, European soccer's governing body will have the right to take action against loss-making clubs participating in continental competition. Chelsea posted a loss of just under US$117 million in 2009/10.
Ron Gourlay, the Chelsea chief executive, stressed the importance of ECN's "local knowledge in China", adding: "We hope to work closely to build on our players' image and reputation in China."
ECN Management managing director Frederick Blackford added: "Football in emerging markets, particularly in China is the most exciting growth business in sports. Chelsea players are some of the most prominent ambassadors of the world game."
On the field, Chelsea could seal an unlikely Premier League comeback with a win against Manchester United on Sunday. At one stage this season the west London club trailed their rivals by 12 points, but victory at Old Trafford will see them top the table with two games remaining.