Sat, 19 Nov 2005

Chelsea Help Boost Malaysia Tourism by 22%

ENGLAND - 19 November 2005, England ? Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich will be flying in minus his band of rich and world famous footballers.

And budding local footballers thinking of making it big in the English Premier League, where Chelsea has a comfortable lead at the top, are also in for a disappointment.

The Russian billionaire's visit is not to scout for fresh talent in Malaysia.

The 37-year-old, who is one of the world's wealthiest figures, was invited by Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad to visit Langkawi to explore the possibility of making the island a base for his seafaring

Dr Toyad extended the invitation to Abramovich during his meeting with the latter at Chelsea's football ground, Stamford Bridge, after watching the "Blues" thrash Newcastle 3-0 on November 19.

"It is likely that he will be visiting Malaysia, especially to explore the yachting facilities in Langkawi," Dr Toyad said in a statement.

The reclusive Abramovich, who was the man behind British football's biggest takeover when he purchased Chelsea at UK Pound 140mil (RM906mil) on July 1 2003, has splashed over UK Pound 200mil (RM1.29bil) since on transfer fees for new players.

This led to Chelsea winning its first league title in 50 years last year.

Dr Toyad is well aware of the "spin-off" effects of an Abramovich involvement in Malaysia's tourism hotspot.

"Besides making Langkawi a base for his yachting activities, he could also invest in the facilities available in the island,'' he added.

Seafaring aside, things are already brewing between Malaysia and Chelsea FC. Earlier this year, Tourism Malaysia signed a RM7m one-year sponsorship deal with the football club, which enables it to prominently display rotational advertising signboards at Stamford Bridge during the current league season.

Dr Toyad said the sponsorship was aimed at attracting more British tourists to Malaysia.

"By last September, tourists arrivals from the UK increased by 22%. And if Abramovich does come, it would be a further testimony of Tourism Malaysia's bold sponsorship move at the club,'' he added.

Dr Toyad said he also discussed with Chelsea FC chief executive officer Peter Kenyon on ways to further promote tourism in Malaysia.

Kenyon later presented Dr Toyad with a Chelsea FC jersey for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi with the name "Abdullah" and No. 1 emblazoned on the back.

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