For transparency: I am an affiliate member of the Chelsea Supporters Trust and a Chelsea Pitch Owner Shareholder.
Whilst standing on the Fulham Road alongside Chelsea fans on that historic Spring evening last April, there was an air of optimism amongst some that this would spark a radical change in English football.
The European Super League shook everyone in the football pyramid to their core. It challenged the fabric of the game we had taken for granted and made supporters of the clubs involved question look inwards.
The collapse of that plot, for which I witnessed whilst being doused in beer flying through the air, led to nearly all the six breakaway Premier League clubs being forced to retreat and set up avenues for better fan communication.
Although all of these can be sneered at cynically as merely lip-service and good PR, it left a telling mark over what that chaotic 48-hour period did to the relationship between its hierarchy and supporters.
Although the two events are not linked, it feels ironic that these conversations over the future of Chelsea’s ownership are being had again, this time very forcefully given the current situation the club finds itself in.
The UK Government’s decision to sanction Roman Abramovich in its continuing response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means that the club’s financial future looks perilous.
With those sanctions and Chelsea as an asset frozen, the club cannot sell tickets, merchandise or act in the transfer market. With sponsors pulling out, the fear of further repercussions and the 1,400+ employees of Chelsea, the desperation for a swift solution is clear.
The Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST) have been vocal about the need for fan involvement in the process since Abramovich decided to put Chelsea up for sale eight days before he was sanctioned.
In a statement released last Friday, the CST supported the implementation of recommendations from Conservative MP Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review that was in response to the Super League.
In the statement titled “Trust in Our Future”, the CST listed, among other things, a golden share for fans to protect key items of club heritage, a shadow board and continued support for the Chelsea Women, a continuation of Chelsea Foundation’s community work and a guarantee of no further attempts to exit existing sporting structures without the engagement of key stakeholders.
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These words were followed by a direct letter to Crouch this Monday and, after the sanctions, stressed again that supporters must be involved in the ongoing impacts on the club and its global fan base.
What happens next is hard to assume?
But what must happen if the Government takes control of the sale of Chelsea is the fan-led approach that dominated much of the post-Super League conversation.
Who those prospective new owners could be, the terms of that deal and implementing the CST recommendations have so ardently supported.
A lot of supporters, particularly those part of the Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO), a non-profit organization that holds the freehold of Stamford Bridge, are also concerned over the potential of stadium redevelopment.
The CPO released a series of tweets on Wednesday inviting the idea of Stamford Bridge’s redevelopment stating, “We remain committed to ensuring the long term future of football at Stamford Bridge and welcome any viable party that specifically includes a desire to redevelop our ground in its proposal.”
Like the Super League revealed for a brief period, the need to rethink the ownership model in English football probably feels no more pressing than Chelsea’s concerning situation.
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