News   |    March 14th, 2022

FOOTBALL FOCUS

Most football fans in this country want the clubs they support to be successful and the reality is that if a mega wealthy individual arrives to buy their club the majority are happy to turn a blind eye to behaviour that many consider both unacceptable and   unpalatable.The latest example of this is the Saudi takeover of Newcastle Utd.

At the moment the focus is very much on the brilliant job Eddie Howe is doing on the pitch but you can be sure that that focus will change at some point and that going forward the ownership will come under more and more scrutiny and you could well see a similar situation to that we are all witnessing at Chelsea.

There is no doubt that Roman Abramovich has been single handedly responsible for establishing Chelsea as a football super power and of course they are currently both World and European Champions. Since he acquired the club there have always been stories circulating regarding the source of his wealth and his relationship with Vladimir Putin. This has now been brought into real scrutiny following the invasion by Russia of Ukraine and the widespread slaughter of innocent civilians. It is heart breaking to witness on our TV screens the destruction of a sovereign European country.

The UK Government and Governments around the globe have  sanctioned Russian oligarchs and frozen  their assets and that along with the severest of sanctions are seen as important elements in pressuring the Kremlin to change direction. Having said that Chelsea Football Club are not responsible in any way for the current Soviet aggression and the club  should not be forced out of business through a lack of funding. The fans certainly don’t deserve that. The club needs to be sold as soon as possible and new owners installed. If that involves an element of the proceeds being deployed for humanitarian aid  then the Government should work with the club to make this happen quickly. It is not that there is any shortage of suitors.

One person who has come out of the Chelsea situation with enormous credit is their manager Thomas Tuchel. He has struck exactly the right note in all the interviews he has done in recent weeks. He is at Stamford Bridge to coach players which he does exceptionally well and he too doesn’t deserve to be in the position he finds himself.

There is a lesson to be learnt here by football’s governing bodies in terms of their ownership approval processes and let’s hope they review their current regulatory processes as in my view public and football opinion is ready to accept significant change.

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management.

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