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Updated: March 29, 2006
Chelsea announce deal with US giant AEG

Chelsea have announced a unique link-up with AEG, one of the major forces in North American soccer.

Blues chief executive Peter Kenyon has been in the USA this week to complete the deal, which comes into effect in the summer of 2007.

The Premiership champions claim it will be a 'major strategic alliance' with the American sport and entertainment presenters.

AEG own or operate four Major League Soccer club franchises - LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, DC United and Houston 1836.

There will also be a special club-to-club relationship with MLS champions LA Galaxy, which could be expanded to other clubs if it works well.

This will give Jose Mourinho first option to sign Galaxy players and allow young Chelsea players out on loan to gain experience in the MLS.

The clubs will also exchange coaching and medical knowledge and personnel.

AEG, who own London's Millennium Dome, build and operate sporting venues in America.

But Chelsea insist the partnership will not have any influence on their operations at home.

There are no plans for AEG to build a new stadium to replace Stamford Bridge or to move the Blues from West London to the Dome, in the east of the capital.

Chelsea will also be involved in a US version of Football Icon, the Sky TV reality show which searches for a new football star and rewards the winner with a professional contract at the club.

Kenyon announced the deal at the World Sports Congress in New York today and hopes it will boost Chelsea's profile and popularity across the Atlantic.

The chief executive said: 'Chelsea is absolutely delighted to be partnering with AEG, the leading backer of soccer in the US.

'This is a unique, ground-breaking relationship that not only demonstrates our commitment to the development of US soccer, but will also help Chelsea work towards its aim of becoming the most popular European club in the US, one of our key target markets.

'Chelsea only partners with global leaders in their respective fields and AEG is one of those.

'With its involvement in US soccer and its expertise in sports, entertainment and stadia ownership, AEG were the logical choice for Chelsea.'

AEG, originally known as Anschutz Entertainment Group, own or control a collection of American sporting venues.

These include The Home Depot Centre in Los Angeles, which boasts a 27,000-seater soccer stadium, a track and field arena with capacity for 20,000 and a 13,000-seater tennis arena.

The construction side of AEG specialises in building small soccer stadia with capacities up to 25,000. New venues are currently being built in Illinois and New Jersey.

Starting next year, the partnership will stage a tournament every two years involving Chelsea and a host MLS club.

But Chelsea's business affairs director, Paul Smith, said: 'Chelsea's involvement in US football will be from top to bottom. We will not just fly in and fly out for the tournaments.

'We will seek to develop a programme of activity that will also cover the huge interest in soccer at youth level, as well as the professional game.

'This will be backed up by specially created media programming, such as a US Football Icon, and other marketing activity for the US market.

'By building the profile and interest in Chelsea in this way we are confident we can expand our business and build a platform for increasing our fan base, merchandising and sponsorship opportunities.'

AEG president Timothy J Leiweke said: 'Chelsea is one of the most ambitious, forward-thinking and recognisable clubs in world football and is prepared to make a long-term pledge to US soccer.

'This alliance will clearly help to continue soccer's tremendous growth in North America through our joint promotional efforts as well as the staging of meaningful competitions between Chelsea and the best of the MLS.

'We thank Peter and his colleagues at Chelsea for their support of this important and ground-breaking initiative.'

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