Top football exec says Qatar World Cup bid 'too early'
Qatar is unlikely to be successful in its bid to host the 2022 football World Cup because the sport has not grown sufficiently quickly in the Middle East, former Manchester United and Chelsea CEO Peter Kenyon said on Monday.
"Qatar bidding for the World Cup is an interesting piece. I think it may be too early, but all credit to them for pitching...These things are about rewarding the growth that has occurred, and that is probably one area where it is too early. But it is a brave move," he told Arabian Business in a phone interview.
Asked how important the Middle East was to British football, he said: "I think beyond the Premier League every road seems to lead towards the Middle East in terms of, you know, it's one of the last bastions standing of cash. At least that's the perception."
Referring to the recent fiasco at Portsmouth football club where wages could not be paid under the brief ownership of Emirati Suleiman Al Fahim, and the subsequent sale of the club to Saudi businessman Ali al-Faraj who said he had bought the club purely as an investment, Kenyon added: "I don't think that is good for anybody. It is not good for football, it is not good for the club, and it is clearly not good for the region where the owner has come from."
He added, however, that English football's biggest problem was not the issue of foreign ownership.
"One of the biggest disasters at the moment involves English ownership, not foreign ownership, so it is not about that. But I do think we need to be very careful and critical of people's intentions. I think proper testing is important. I think real proof of funds is critical, because without funds in this game it is very difficult to do what is required."
Kenyon, who is due to attend the Arabian Sponsorship Forum on December 14-15 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, denied that he had been a lame duck at Chelsea following the sacking of Brazilian coach Phil Scolari.
He said: "My position wasn't untenable. Scolari was my man just like Mourinho was my man. As I say, you have got to deal with things as a chief executive, the one difference with a sporting franchise is it's very public and everybody has got an opinion.
"The only people who knew what had gone on was (owner) Roman Abramovich and the board. The Scolari thing I was fully involved in, because I wasn't physically there it didn't mean I wasn't fully involved. I knew it was happening and I was involved from that point of view."
Kenyon was famously pilloried for leading the defeated Chelsea team up the stairs to collect their runners up medals at the 2007 Champions League final, but he said he had no regrets and only happy memories of his time at both Chelsea and Manchester United.
"I think there are always things you would like to do differently, but the overall experience of both clubs is that I have no regrets," he said.
Asked if Chelsea had a plan for survival should multi-billionaire owner Abramovich walk away from the club, Kenyon said there was no need of one.
"The funding is secured, should he go, but there is no rationale or indication that he wants to," he said.