Ultimate power at Chelsea Football Club resides with the owner, Roman Abramovich. He may leave the day-to-day running of the club to his trusted employees, but it’s safe to assume that, for better or worse, he has the final say in any major and probably most minor decisions. But what’s the structure below him. Who are the key players, the key advisors, and what all do they do?
Here is an explainer, to the best of our knowledge — please let us know if something you see is incorrect. It builds on Dom Fifield’s brief summary in the Guardian’s Premier League scouting setups rundown, any official information that may be available on the Chelsea website, and personal observations.
There is undoubtedly a difference between the theoretical and practical operation of this human machinery, but that’s left for others to speculate.
Owner. Ultimate power. Technically, he controls Fordstam Ltd, which in turn owns Chelsea FC PLC, which in turn owns Chelsea Football Club, but all really means is that a) Chelsea are debt free in a very technical sense and b) Abramovich controls everything.
Chairman of the Board, responsible mostly for the business side of things, developing the club into a major player on the world football stage. No doubt works closely with our new marketing director, Chris Townsend. Buck is the Chairman and there are three other Board members: David Barnard, Eugene Tenenbaum, and Marina Granovskaia. Chelsea also have a Life President (Lord Attenborough, who sadly passed away in 2014) and five Vice-presidents of whom Chelsea provide no official information (Peter Digby, Sir Peter Harrison, Joe Hemani, Anthony Reeves, Alan Spence).
The club secretary, Barnard basically runs the day-to-day administrative (including transfer agreement and player contracts) and functional operations at the club.
Often portrayed as Abramovich’s most trusted advisor. Tenenbaum was the head of corporate finance at Sibneft and he probably concentrates on similar things at Chelsea — as has been pointed out in the comments, “corporate finance” (mergers & acquisitions, capital investments, debt management) does not necessarily translate directly to football operations at a football club. Tenenbaum is more likely to be involved in the overall financial health of the club (as a business entity) than player transfers themselves, but that could still include a role as an ultimate arbiter in holding the purse strings and watching the bottom line. Player acquisitions are just one of the myriad of things Chelsea spend money on, but someone still needs to set and watch the budget!
The Emperor’s Hand. Roman’s Eyes and Ears and Will. Her prime responsibility is “player transactions”, which loosely translates to negotiating deals and contracts, but she also “acts as a representative” for the owner in board meetings, which basically makes her the most powerful person at Chelsea on most days.
Below the Board level, we get to people who make some decisions and have not-insignificant impact, but don’t actually have executive power.
Emenalo, everyone’s favorite scapegoat, is the Technical Director. He’s celebrating ten years at the club after being brought into the fold by Avram Grant, his former manager at Maccabi Tel Aviv. Emenalo has worked his way up from the scouting department through a brief diversion as assistant to Ancelotti to a backroom management role as Technical Director, which he’s fulfilled for the last six years. That makes him the head of the scouting department and a strong voice in setting the club’s technical direction. He recently completed his UEFA Pro License in coaching as well.
Head scout. According to the Guardian, Chelsea have trimmed the scouting department down to a dozen or so scouts who cover specific regions from over 50 during the days of technical director Frank Arnesen. McLachlan takes their reports and compiles them into the club’s scouting database for Emenalo, Conte, others to use in their decision-making and discussions.
Head coach. Has all the say in things on the pitch and the training ground. Has some say in things off the pitch.
As Technical Director, Emenalo is the key facilitator during most of the scouting and recruiting process. He talks with Conte (daily, says the Guardian), he talks with Granovskaia/Abramovich, he talks with agents and “intermediaries”, he talks with the scouts and is the primary customer for their work.
Only once a player is identified and agreement reached with the head coach does Emenalo approach the director Marina Granovskaia or owner, Roman Abramovich, to request a transfer, with Granovskaia in effect charged with securing the target.
So, Emenalo and Conte, having identified and agreed on a transfer target (e.g. Lukaku vs. Morata), they present their case to the people in charge, who then go off to try to secure the target. In theory, the two football-men are (and should be) only concerned with the sporting aspects of this process. The actual business and financial side concerns the Board and the owner. Emenalo might talk to agents, perhaps to gauge interest, but he doesn’t negotiate. Conte does even less.
That’s the theory anyway. In practice, it’s probably a fairly collaborative process, but with roles and boundaries perhaps not as clearly defined or adhered to, which always has a chance to create confusion or misunderstanding. Some of that may be just why we’re suddenly embroiled in all this drama with Conte, Costa, etc. But Chelsea have operated under such a model for most of Abramovich’s tenure, and are unlikely to change anytime soon. So let’s smooth all that over — stop, collaborate, and listen! — and then get back to business.