One month from now, the Premier League season will be over and Chelsea will be heading across the Atlantic to play the New England Revolution in a charity match as part of the club’s ongoing efforts to help combat anti-Semitism. As a prelude to the event, which will take place at Foxborough on May 15th, Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck along with New England Revolution President Brian Bilello participated in a panel discussion at New York University on the humanitarian cause and its implications on the future of the sport.
Chelsea’s (award-winning, for whatever that’s worth) ‘Say No To Antisemitism’ campaign may be over a year old now, but the work is just beginning. Anti-Semitism, racism, and all forms of discrimination remain a massive problem in modern society and are staining this beautiful game we love with increasing regularity as well.
“This is an indefinite programme, and we have some creative people looking at ways we can have different kinds of events and projects and we will keep moving forward. We’re not going to see results overnight but we can’t be discouraged or frustrated. We just have to keep working. If a couple of years from now we can say we moved the needle a little bit, I think we will be satisfied.”
-Bruce Buck, Chelsea FC
Chelsea are hoping to make a difference through education and awareness, including sponsoring trips to Auschwitz and holding various talks and events, but also by acting swiftly to try to stamp out a certain vile element among the fanbase. Buck would also be in full support of players walking out in the face of continued racist abuse, though recognizes, just as Raheem Sterling recently pointed out — “If you walk off, they win” — that walking out could actually empower the racist, idiots, and racist idiots out there.
“What we’re trying to do, mostly in the UK but also here, is educate people, make them aware of the issue and hopefully change some attitudes.
“If players on the pitch who are the recipient of this kind of behavior feel it appropriate to leave the pitch, I support it. I personally think that if that happens once or twice, it would cause a change in behavior. Having said that, there are people that view it a little bit differently and say that if we start taking players off the pitch for this kind of behavior, there will be more of this behavior because there are so many idiots out there — that they would like to see teams being taken off the pitch.”
The anti-Semitism campaign has become one of Chelsea’a foremost priorities in the last year, lead by the owner himself, whose commitment to the club continues to be questioned due to his visa situation, which has prevented him from working in the UK. In response to that ban, Abramovich put Chelsea’s new stadium plans on hold, and they’ve remained so ever since.
Buck addressed the issue briefly as well, and while he didn’t exactly say when the plans will be restarted, he talked about them very much in the sense of future developments rather than canceled hopes and dreams.
“In our plans for a new stadium, which are currently on hold, we’re proposing to do many of the things that Spurs have done, but it’s a matter of getting the balance right. We’re trying to get the fans there for longer periods of time, trying to get them into our shop, trying to get them to buy other things, definitely all trying to do that. Mainland Europe has even much less than they do in the Premier League clubs. It’s not part of the culture historically. But I think it will change.”
And speaking of expanding the fanbase and milking them for more of their hard-earned cash, Christian Pulisic will be front and center, especially in the USA, where Chelsea command the fourth largest viewership among Premier League teams (after Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool). While that’s up from seventh (7th!?!) in 2016-17, there’s still room for improvement on and off the pitch, and Pulisic should be able to help with both.
“He’s a personable boy. He’s well-liked in this country. I would expect him when we come here and play some friendly matches, which is what our objective is in the summer of 2020. I think he will he will be helpful.
“The surveys tell us that we’re very strong on the two coasts. We have some work to do in Middle America. I think we’re doing in round terms as well as any other big club.”
-Bruce Buck; source: AP
But first! Liverpool.