Roman Abramovich Can Win Chelsea Fans Back

Chelsea were the first founding member of the breakaway Super League to pull out of the competition but there remains a sense of betrayal among many supporters

Chelsea supporters are currently feeling a range of complex emotions. Optimism. Joy, Anger, Frustration, Disgust, Betrayal. It’s certainly been an intense three days.

The moment the bomb was dropped on Sunday evening and the Blues were confirmed as one of twelve clubs planning to break away from UEFA competition and create a closed-shop Super League, there was an innate need among fans to rally, fight back, change the club’s thinking.

First came a bombardment of negativity towards Chelsea and the other eleven sides on social media. Then a protest was organised by supporters. It would take place prior to the Blues’ Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion. All who opposed the plans were welcome.

The protest began in earnest at around 5.30pm on Tuesday. Less than two hours later and news had emerged that Chelsea, reportedly at the behest of Roman Abramovich, had begun the process of extracting themselves from the competition they’d only agreed to join two days earlier.

It was quite an extraordinary evening.

The Blues were the first domino to fall. Manchester City officially pulled out soon after. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur followed suit later in the evening.

Chelsea’s official statement wasn’t published until the early hours of this morning – the game against Brighton the reason for the delay.

It read: “As reported earlier this evening, Chelsea Football Club can confirm that it has begun the formal procedures for withdrawal from the group developing plans for a European Super League.

“Having joined the group late last week, we have now had time to consider the matter fully and have decided that our continued participation in these plans would not be in the best interests of the Club, our supporters or the wider football community.”

Seventy three words total. No details as to why the initial decision was taken. No apology to supporters. It didn’t go down well among the club’s fanbase.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust was first to react. It released a statement of its own this morning demanding an in-depth explanation from the club as to why they signed up for the proposed Super League, why they did not apologise after pulling out, and what the current positions of chairman Bruce Buck and CEO Guy Laurence are.

It read: “It has been confirmed that Chelsea Football Club is officially withdrawing their intention to join the European Super League,’ it read. ‘Whilst this is a huge win for supporters worldwide, our fight to secure the proper future of the club will continue.

“The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust is appalled with the tone and insincerity of the statement issued by CFC today. We request a full and in-depth explanation as to why the board took the decision to turn their back on the European competition and for CFC to explain why they signed up to the Super League without prior consultation with their loyal supporters.

“We are disappointed that an apology has not been included in the statement. The legacy of our club was put at risk for what appears to have been solely for financial gain.

“The CST presently have little or no confidence in our current leadership at board level. On Monday, Bruce Buck extensively defended CFC’s plan to remain in the Super League at a fans’ forum meeting. Buck, alongside Laurence, appears to have given no consideration towards the loyal supporters, so their positions would seem untenable moving forward,’ the statement continued.

“Our relations with CFC will remain frayed until we have a better understanding of why this decision happened and we are assured that change and safeguards are put in place. The CST will not rest until we are comfortable that change and protections are put in place, because 116 years of history was jeopardised. This is our club and will remain our club.”

That strength of feeling, the belief that a fracture has opened between those at the top of the club and those who matter most – the supporters – was echoed by Richard Weeks, a member of the We Are The Shed fan group.

He explained that the club face a difficult challenge to repair the trust that was shattered by the decision to sign-up for the Super League.

“The one thing that has come from this is there is no confidence in the board anymore,” he said. “I think every Chelsea fan has the utmost respect for Roman, what he’s done for the club.

“But what this European Super League plan has done is severely damaged the confidence between fans and the board as a whole. Bottom line is that a lot of Chelsea supporters now do not trust the board. And that will be the same for all the teams who were willing to join the Super League.”

Buck and Laurence have not publicly spoken about the club’s decision to join and then pull out of the Super League. Neither has Abramovich, although a spokesperson for the Chelsea owner did tell the Telegraph: “Having spoken extensively to fans and stakeholders, we have always worked with the community and we’re not going to do anything that goes against them. We listened and we heard.”

This is not something Chelsea supporters can simply forgive and forget, however. The events of the past 72 hours have highlighted the power fans still have, the influence they can still wield when it comes to issues that have the potential to damage the game

In the weeks ahead, the Blues must make an attempt to rebuild trust, to change the sense of betrayal many still feel.

That will be far from easy given how unpopular members of the board now are. It’s perhaps why a rare statement – he has only once commented on a managerial departure, Frank Lampard’s – and even rarer apology from Abramovich is required, especially given Liverpool’s John Henry, Manchester United’s Joel Glazer, and Arsenal have done so.

His words carry the most weight, just as his actions do. It’s he and he alone who can start and accelerate the healing process.


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