Officially becoming a Mickey Mouse team has furthered Chelsea’s ambition to be recognised as the world’s No 1 football club by the year 2014. They preceded last night’s opening preseason fixture, in the newly concocted Disney Friendship Cup against Club America, by announcing a four-year tie-up with the owners of the big-eared rodent and other cartoon chums.
Intent on expanding their fan base in North America, Chelsea now have a unique status as the “official professional soccer club” of the Walt Disney Company. The plan is for them to have a “significant presence” at both the entertainment conglomerate’s youth football programme and its Florida-based sports theme park, giving them access to a new generation of football fans on the continent while tapping into Disney’s immense marketing and distribution network.
“The partnership is ground breaking,” said Chelsea director Paul Smith. “Disney have penetration and a reach to a market that is really targeted at that young fan. A lot of people in our sector have eyed Disney as being in some way a target but we’ve been able to make that first step.”
The tentacles of this can be seen in the U.S. this week: Chelsea will play
the MLS allstars LA Galaxy in a game to be televised live on ESPN, the Disney-owned hegemonic American sports network. But do Chelsea really have any chance of becoming the world’s top football club in terms of fanbase? It takes more than just branding and trophies…Right?