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Dutch FA to launch an official investigation on the influence Chelsea wields at Vitesse

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Continuing the bizarre series of events that have transpired at Vitesse in recent weeks, the KNVB (Dutch FA) has announced that it will launch an official investigation into the relationship the club has with Chelsea.

This announcement comes on the heels of former caretaker owner Merab Jordania claiming that Chelsea intentionally prevented Vitesse from winning the league and earning Champions League football.

Of course, Jordania cannot be taken seriously at the moment, as he was banned from the club earlier this week after it was revealed that he threatened to cut off the fingers of Vitesse's CEO, Joost de Wit.

In a rare public statement released last night, Vitesse owner Alexander Chigirinsky condemned Merab Jordania's threats against CEO Joost de Wit. The reculsive oligarch made it known that he fully supports the board not only in its decision to ban Jordania from the stadium and training grounds for three years, but also in the general direction the club is headed.

This likely came as a blow to Jordania, who had just a few months ago professed to De Telegraaf that Chigirinsky was his "best friend," and "there is nothing but pure friendship between us." Jordania is also an extremely passionate Vitesse supporter, and called and refers to Vitesse as "the best project of his life." He even goes as far to say that he loves Vitesse as much as he loves his child.

Once one possesses the background information, it becomes apparent that Jordania's claims seem to be that of a petulant child who threw a temper tantrum, was appropriately removed from the situation, and is now bitterly sulking in the corner.

Other than the fact that it was Chigirinsky himself making the statement (which isn't all that surprising when you consider that the club needed to make a statement and with de Wit being personally involved and the club having recently parted ways with its long-time press director, the club's options were limited), there's nothing particularly surprising about backing the decisions made by the Vitesse front office and condemning a guy who threatened to mutiliate his colleague.

However, Chigirinsky finally confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in football -- that Chigirinsky had been involved with the club all along and financed the purchase of the club in August 2010. Chigirinsky allowed Jordania to control the club's day to day operations, but after a series of mistakes Jordania made, Chigirinsky took back the shares he gave to Jordania and removed him from the club.

The Dutch media have been speculating that this was the case for years, and WAGNH took an in-depth look into the Roman Abramovich - Alexander Chigirinsky - Merab Jordania triumvirate some months ago. While it's nice to finally get an answer as to the ownership situation, it calls into question the decision to install Jordania as "caretaker owner" in the first place? Given Jordania's sketchy past, one wonders why he was ever given such a public role in the club. Jordania has proven to be very capable of leading a football organisation and his eye for talent is unquestioned, but surely it would have been better for all parties concerned had he been installed in the less-visible position of technical director (in a Michael Emenalo-type role).


Former Vitesse technical director, Ted van Leeuwen, conducted a recorded interview with NOS today and chimed in with his take. After spending five years with the Arnhem club, van Leeuwen left the club to help Jordania with his new project at Maltese club, Valletta FC.

The always-excellent Mark Will Stinson shared some translated quotes from the van Leeuwen interview on Twitter. According to Stinson, van Leeuwen claimed that "Chelsea doesn't really care about a title, only about player development which isn't necessarily parallel to a title challenge." Stinson adds that "Van Leeuwen also thinks that Chelsea blocked the Leerdam move (last year in January) because he would be competing with [Tomas] Kalas."

Van Leeuwen even goes so far to say that "we had the feeling that sooner or later, Chelsea would decide the formations as well." This claim directly contradicts what Peter Bosz told Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail when they spoke together a few months ago -

'They don’t put pressure on us or ask us to do things we don’t like, not at all, I mean that,'

'They explained how they worked and what they expected. I tell them positions where I’m looking for players, they tell me what they can do for us and we look at whether it’s possible.'

'Once we agree for a player to come to us, I have to develop him and in the end we hope they are good enough for Chelsea. They are not saying I have to play them, or I have to play this kind of way. I’m the coach and I decide. But of course we work together.'

Rather than letting this devolve into a murky "he-said, she-said" situation, let's just take a look how much the Chelsea loanees have played over the past six matches -

  • Christian Atsu - 6 starts, 481 minutes played
  • Lucas Piazon - 2 starts, 259 minutes played
  • Bertrand Traore - 1 start, 120 minutes played
  • Patrick van Aanholt - 1 start, 90 minutes played

Van Aanholt, a Dutch international and in his third season at Vitesse, has been reduced to sitting on the bench in favour of a lad called Rochdi Achenteh, who Vitesse picked up in January. In addition, his lone start (which came over the weekend) was due to Kelvin Leerdam's suspension and Vitesse's lack of depth at fullback.

In addition, Lucas Piazon (one of Chelsea's most prized prospects and arguably the Eredivisie's best player in the first half of the season) had been relegated to late-game substitutions after a drop in form. He started the last two matches largely as a result of Renato Ibarra's suspension and injury.

As the manager himself stated, Peter Bosz is clearly not under any pressure to play the Chelsea loanees and has full control over how he runs his team.

Van Leeuwen's loyalties quite obviously lie with his current employer, Merab Jordania, rather than with, you know, the truth, so it's not surprising to see van Leeuwen pipe in with outlandish claims.

Why would Chelsea intentionally try to prevent Vitesse from winning?

It wouldn't.

While Chelsea's primary goal with the Vitesse partnership is quite obviously player development, it also has a vested interest in the success Vitesse achieves. The two go hand in hand.

The opportunity for Chelsea to offer its loanees Champions League football is an extraordinary bargaining chip and will set the club apart from the other European giants vying for the signatures of the world's best young players.

There is no reason why Chelsea would want to hinder the success of Vitesse in any way. Any statement to the contrary is likely the result of misunderstanding what is known as the ENIC ruling. To better understand the case its relevance, and the surrounding context, I'll re-publish a section from a larger feature on the relationship between the two clubs -

In 1999, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) affirmed that UEFA did not violate EU law when it removed AEK Athens from the 1997-98 UEFA Cup because the club was owned by the same company, ENIC, that owned Slavia Praha, which was also in the competition.

The ruling held that:

In the case of two or more clubs which are under common control, only one may participate in the same UEFA club competition. In this connection, an individual or legal entity has control of a club where he/she/it:

a. holds a majority of the shareholders’ voting rights, or

b. has the right to appoint or remove a majority of the members of the administrative, management or supervisory body, or

c. is a shareholder and alone controls a majority of the shareholders’ voting rights pursuant to an agreement entered into with other shareholders of the club in question.

That is, while there is no rule, regulation, or law against owning controlling interests multiple football clubs (at least where the European Union and UEFA is concerned), those clubs cannot compete in the same competition. Such a rule is necessary to preserve the integrity of the game and avoiding conflicts of interest.

As such, while it is clear that Chelsea is directly involved in all things Vitesse, it is a fundamental necessity that Roman Abramovich didn’t purchase the club himself. I can imagine that if (or more likely, when) Vitesse earns a spot in the Champions League, we will hear grumbling from Chelsea’s and Vitesse’s opposition about the definition of "common control" in section (b) of the ENIC ruling, but it is unlikely that the term "management body" applies to hiring decisions in footballing or scouting operations, but rather the board of directors. Chelsea will have nothing to do with the Vitesse board of directors, as it will strictly be the realm of Chigirinsky and the minority shareholders (the Vitesse supporters who rescued the club and stadium from bankruptcy after the Aalbers fiasco).

While I am not intimately familiar with KNVB procedures and what the investigation will entail, the football association has already said that they do not anticipate changing their rules regarding loans anytime soon. I would be surprised if anything were to come of this investigation, and I expect that the KNVB likely feels forced to respond to the rantings of an extremely disturbed individual simply as a matter of due diligence.

Hopefully, things will settle down in Arnhem soon and the club will be able devote 100% of its attention on finishing the season strong and earning a favourable spot in a European competition next season.

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