Chelsea’s new owners have talked a good game... now it is time for investment and results on and off the pitch

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·4-min read
Chelsea’s new owners have talked a good game... now it is time for investment and results on and off the pitch
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Todd Boehly’s first statement after being handed the keys to Chelsea was just 94 words long but it hit all the right notes. Co-owners, Clearlake Capital, provided a further 104.

Fewer than 200 words, after months of jumping through hoops, beating off competition from some of the richest people in the world and negotiating their way through Government red tape to end the era of Roman Abramovich and herald a new dawn at Stamford Bridge.

These have been desperately uncertain times for the club — in particular its supporters, who in February saw their side crowned champions of the world but by April had genuine fears about Chelsea’s very existence.

They, more than anyone, needed a good news story, and in the brief statements put out by their new owners came real hope for the future. Now Boehly and Clearlake need to deliver.

They find themselves in an unusual position.

The UK Government may have been determined to rid the club of Abramovich, who was sanctioned for his links to Vladimir Putin, but to the fans the oligarch is the man who brought unprecedented success over 19 years and conquered both Europe and the world over the past 12 months.

This was not a bitter fight to rid the club of a neglectful owner. Anyone who follows Abramovich has enormous shoes to fill and will have to convince supporters from the start that they can take the club forward after nearly two decades of delivering the finest players and biggest trophies in football.

Which is why Boehly’s words, in particular, will have struck a chord when they were released early on Monday evening.

Privately, he has been bold about his ambitions, stating that he believes the Abramovich years can be bettered. It is, after all, five years since they won the Premier League title.

Chelsea remain a long way off Manchester City and Liverpool, who are only getting stronger.

Todd Boehly (PA)
Todd Boehly (PA)

Boehly was more circumspect in his first public utterance, but there were key takeaways: the best players will continue to be brought to the Bridge; the oft-underused academy will be cherished, with homegrown talent given the fullest opportunity to prosper; the new ownership is about long-term success.

His promise to be “all in — 100 per cent — every minute of every match” is unlikely to mean his literal presence at every fixture, home and away, but he is expected to be very visible in his role as controlling owner.

He plans to oversee structural changes to recruitment and will spend much of this summer on the ground in the UK to ensure Chelsea can compete for the title in his first season in charge.

His co-owners, Behdad Eghbali and Jose Feliciano of Clearlake, also chose their words wisely: invest, invest, invest.

Abramovich used his billions to change the landscape of world football, and the new owners recognise the need to keep pumping in the money if they want to keep pace at the top.

It has taken £4.25billion to buy out Abramovich, with £1.75bn of that locked in to invest into the club. A stadium redevelopment is also high on the agenda.

Chelsea fans can be comforted by Boehly looking to the Liverpool model as inspiration, as well as his success LA Dodgers.

Fans have already made it clear they want more power, with a shadow board and a Golden Share, which will be an early test to relations between the new owners and supporters.

But, in the immediate term, it is about delivering on-pitch success. Everything else follows from there. It is a simple formula, but one that is so difficult to achieve.

Liverpool’s American owners have made massive miscalculations, from furlough and the Super League in recent times, to attempts to trademark the city’s name and introduce ticket price hikes in the past. But they have delivered the best team in more than a generation, with an iconic manager and a swathe of trophies.

That is how to win over fans — something the Glazers at Manchester United and Stan Kroenke at Arsenal have wholly failed to replicate.

Chelsea fans can feel comforted by the fact that Boehly has looked to the Liverpool model as inspiration, as well as the success he has achieved at the LA Dodgers.

A new era has begun, with lofty promises from the start. Now all that Chelsea’s new owners have to do, is live up to them.

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