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Laura Ricketts statement: ‘We strive to be champions both on and off the field’

PR battle

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-BRENTFORD Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

Of the four bidding groups shortlisted in the battle to become Chelsea’s next owners, the Ricketts Family (and their associates, particularly prospective majority shareholder Ken Griffin) are fighting the biggest uphill battle as far as public perception’s concerned. Reasons for this include both sporting and non-sporting issues, though their insistence and determination to remain in the running has raised concerns of this being an unfair and corrupt process as well.

While the Rickettses continue to say all the right things to appease and (futilely) try to get fans onside, it’s not exactly clear what they bring to the table (financially or competitively) that the other groups can’t or won’t — though that’s in part due to us simply not knowing as much about the other bids as has been revealed (either by choice or by necessity) about the Ricketts bid. They clearly have the money, the connections, and the gameplan. Presumably the other groups do, too, but we know practically nothing about Stephen Pagliuca’s bid for example, and not much more about Sir Martin Broughton’s consortium.

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The Todd Boehly-led consortium seems to be the other most solid bid, and the one with the most sporting know-how as well. Boehly may only be a part-owner of the LA Dodgers, but he’s had extensive experience in such settings with multiple teams (and seems to espouse winning ideals). Some goes for Pagliuca (Celtics, Atalanta). Broughton’s bid is a mystery, but might involve a wide and varied consortium of who knows who.

Of course, they’re all in it for the money in the end. It’s what business is all about. Even Roman Abramovich had certain benefits in mind — perhaps not strict financial gains (though he would’ve sold at a healthy profit on his £150m + £1.5b investment under normal circumstances) but rather sportswashing or protection (depending on your reading of his relationship with Vladimir Putin). He just turned out to be a bit football-mad, too, to our obvious benefit at every level of the organization.

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs

With final bids due Monday, April 11, all the prospective owners are (or should be) making final moves, including visits to London to meet with Chelsea executive and key stakeholders. Boehly’s team doing that right now while the Rickettses were in town earlier this week. Laura Ricketts, who’s increasingly being put forward as the other “face” of the operation alongside her brother Tom, has now released a lengthy statement, again saying all the right things — but as expected, falling on skeptical ears. It is obviously blatant PR, but again, it’s giving more information about their bid which we don’t have about the others. There’s no such thing as bad PR, as they say, right?

If we take it at face value, it’s an excellent statement full of important promises and quotable mission statements. If we don’t, well then it doesn’t really matter what the statement says. If we approach with the appropriate mix of skepticism and openness, it’s something to take heart in if they do end up being chosen.

Here’s Laura Ricketts’ full statement, via Goal. I added emphasis to a couple key lines.

“We have had a memorable few days in London, taking the opportunity to meet as many people as possible from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“Obviously, I can’t comment on talks we had with Chelsea officials because that has to remain confidential. But I can say we had very informative and enjoyable meetings with some passionate fan groups — in particular with Tracy Brown from Chelsea Pride and Kerrie Evans from Chelsea Women Supporters Group.

“We also met Sanjay Bhandari, the Chair of Kick It Out, and it was wonderful to hear about all the work he’s doing. We admire their approach and would like to introduce them to Major League Baseball.

“I was also thrilled to go to the Chelsea Women’s game at the weekend and I flew in early to make the match. It was a joy to see the incredible athletic talent of the Chelsea Women and to also experience the supporters’ amazing energy at Kingsmeadow.

“Much of my life’s work has been about empowering and supporting women, so to see these young women playing at this level was a real treat for me. It was also so great to see all the families who were at the game.

“Sport has such power to bring communities together and family is at the heart of the community. Some of the girls there reminded me of my 11-year-old daughter. For young girls to see the Chelsea Women on the pitch can be inspiring and empowering to them.

“In recent weeks, we’ve also had several valuable conversations with the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust. I appreciate their passion for Chelsea and the important questions they’ve raised. I look forward to continuing the good conversations we’ve begun.

“We all need to be listening and speaking up, and I feel a particular responsibility because of the position I’m in. We’re not going to be able to persuade all the fans right away that we will be good stewards of Chelsea – we’re going to have to show them with meaningful action if we are successful in our bid.

“But I can assure all Chelsea fans that it has been my life’s work to fight against discrimination and bigotry of any kind.

“Coming out as an LGBTQ+ woman has influenced my perspective and sensitivity about diversity and inclusion. I can’t know what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes, but I can begin to understand and have an awareness of their different experience. And that’s a gift. In the position that I’m in, I feel a sense of responsibility to be an advocate. To me, being an advocate means speaking up, and also listening.

“When we assumed responsibility for the Chicago Cubs and its legacy, we immediately realised that teams like the Cubs don’t belong to one person or organisation. They belong to the fans. We’re stewards – and we’re answerable to the fans. That’s how we see it in Chicago – and it would be exactly the same at Chelsea.

“There is such power in sport for community building and to bring diverse people together. At Cubs Charities, we have developed our own sport-based youth development programming that engages young people and families in under-served communities. As the Chair of Cubs Charities, I am proud of our work and the impact it has on so many lives.

“Here, the Chelsea Foundation already makes a significant impact and I would hope we could help build on this. We strive to be champions both on and off the field. It’s what makes Chelsea great, and is a tradition we would honour if we were to become the club’s next stewards.”