In a rare interview with Forbes’ Lee Igel, Roman Abramovich opened up on multiple topics concerning his time as Chelsea FC owner. Those include his ambitions for the team, and his reaction to hateful and discriminatory comments on social media concerning his club and its players.
Abramovich’s interview is very much a surprise, as most of his communication has largely been through written statements. Even when it comes to the club’s success (and failures), he has typically taken a step back.
“It has never been my ambition to have a public profile. [The performance of the team, manager, board, and club] should speak for itself. It is not helpful to provide additional running commentary.”
But Chelsea’s success is very much attributed to the ambitions of its owner. Abramovich sent shockwaves to football clubs worldwide through the first few transfer windows under his ownership. His ambition to see Chelsea thrive as one of Europe’s elite would be driven by cash injections to fund large player transfers.
Abramovich would also highlight another ambition of his for the club, which is to see the club transcend sport and become something much more to the benefit of society and global community in general.
“First of all, when you say something, you have to always follow through. And, I guess, that is especially if you’re a person who doesn’t say much. So, what you do say is very important.
“Second, football is society. Football is part of society and society is part of football. So, it’s the natural state of things for football to be in be involved, to support the community, and to be present in the community.
“The ambitions are as true now as they were when I first became owner and I hope that can be seen through the work we have been doing on and off the pitch over the last 17 years [...], to create world-class teams on the pitch; and to ensure the club plays a positive role in all of its communities.”
Of course with all the success the club has had under Abramovich, it would be unfair not to speak about what is seen as less than ideal aspects, such as the high turnover and short termism attributed to Chelsea when it comes to managers.
But when asked about the subject, Abramovich’s approach to the topic centered on Chelsea’s culture driving strategy, with a touch on Chelsea’s “supportive, inclusive, and diverse” initiatives.
“I think we are pragmatic in our choices. And we are comfortable making the right changes at the right time to ensure we can achieve our long-term ambitions.
“I hope it also says something about the clarity of the long-term ambition of the club. Those who join understand the objectives both on the pitch, as well as the wider positive role the club plays in the community.”
It has been well over 17 years since Roman Abramovich “shocked” the footballing world, becoming owner of our dear Chelsea Football Club. Since then, the club under his ownership have won 18 trophies across multiple competitions.
But for Abramovich, success for him is measured well beyond the men’s team. The success of the academy was also born with his arrival as owner in 2003. And Chelsea’s youth teams and academy has long been heralded not just domestically, but worldwide as one of the best for cultivating the footballers of tomorrow.
“I think the trophies speak for themselves and show what we as a club have been able to achieve over these years, and it’s my goal for us to keep winning trophies going forward and build for the future.
“Chelsea has a very rich history, and I feel extremely fortunate to a play a part in that. The club was here before me, and will be here after me, but my job is to ensure we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future. That’s why the success of our academy at Cobham is so important to me.”
Furthermore, Chelsea’s investment into women’s football has come on strong in recent years. The club have backed the women’s team with big player transfers, including renowned names in international football such as Samantha Kerr and Pernille Harder. Under manager Emma Hayes, Chelsea women’s team won the league last season, and look to complete their domestic and European domination this term as well.
“Chelsea is not just the men’s first team. Chelsea is a community. It’s the women’s team, it’s the youth teams, it’s the academy, it’s support to former players of the club. It’s something that we started to do since day one.
“The reason is that we approached Chelsea as a community. And people within the community—there are children, there are women, there are men, there are former players, there are current players, there are future players—all of them need to be welcomed and part of how we conduct the business.”
“I see no reason why clubs wouldn’t want to support women’s football and provide the best possible opportunity for them to succeed. For me, this is both about the principle, but, also, women’s football has huge potential. If women’s football received the same level as support as men’s football, the sport would obviously be equally successful on the business side.”
“And I think investment pays off. I think their success demonstrates what can be achieved when you dedicate resources and the right leadership. [Manager] Emma Hayes has been remarkable in her work with the team.”
Speaking to his ambition for the club to add positive value to the community, Abramovich spoke on the club’s social programs aimed at providing support and tackling all forms of hate and discrimination.
“Football is not just a business opportunity. Football is a community sport. Chelsea is a community. We need to embrace all of that community in the work that we do, the investments that we do, and the work that we focus on.
“Racism, antisemitism, this is all the same type of evil and should have no place on our world at this day and age.
“Every time I get sent examples of racist abuse that our players face, I am shocked. It’s disgraceful that this is the reality for not just our players, but for anyone targeted by this sort of abuse. If we as a club can make a difference in this area, in fighting antisemitism, racism and promoting tolerance, I am determined to stand behind it and contribute in whatever way I can.”
-Roman Abramovich; Source: Forbes
Uncle Roman’s interview is well worth a read. It is refreshing to read up on his continued high ambitions for the club, and a reminder that a lot of the success on and off the pitch comes at his direction.