Over the past couple decades, we’ve become quite used to managers getting the sack when results suddenly didn’t go their way. Thomas Tuchel’s departure last week had shades of José Mourinho’s sacking seven games into the 2007-08 season, for example, and if that version of Roman Abramovich were still in charge (he had mellowed over the years), Tuchel’s P45 would’ve been just another notch on the Moon Door.
But it’s no longer the biggest and richest Chelsea fan calling the shots, with all the silliness and fickleness that entails. Now it’s much more of a (sports) business operation, with seemingly a clear vision of not just the football itself, but how the club should operate — and especially how the club should operate. And while Boehly & Co will be taking care of the business side of those operations once everything is in place, they do have a vision for the football side as well.
And, unfortunately, as (the club-sourced) reports following Tuchel’s dismissal also indicated, the former head coach was simply not aligned on that, and was not really interested in becoming involved in those aspects. One might say that we then should’ve made this change back at the start of the summer instead of now, but evidently it took a minute for this division to become apparent. Once it did, there was no way back, especially with results being what they have been.
“When you take over any business you just have to make sure you’re aligned with the people who are operating the business. I think Tuchel is obviously extremely talented and someone who had great success with Chelsea. Our vision for the club was finding a manager who really wanted collaborate with us, a coach who really wanted to collaborate.
“I think there’s a lot of walls to break down at Chelsea. Before, for example the first team and the academy didn’t really share data, they didn’t share information about where the top players were coming from. So our goal is to really bring a team together that, with the academy, with the first team, with the incremental clubs we want to acquire and develop, all of that need to be a well-oiled machine.
“And the reality of our decision was that we just weren’t sure that Thomas saw the same way we saw. No one’s right or wrong, it’s just we didn’t share a vision for the future. It wasn’t about soccer, it was really about the shared vision for what we wanted Chelsea Football Club to look like. It wasn’t a decision that was made as a result of a single win or loss. It was a decision that was made really about what we thought was the right vision for the club.”
Over the past two decades we’ve also become used to dead silence from the club owner. Boehly’s obviously very different from that, even if he reserves most of his talking for business conferences, which is where these quotes are coming from as well. It’s important to keep that context in mind — the SALT Conference targets asset managers, asset owners, entrepreneurs, investment advisors, and policy experts for its audience — especially when Boehly talks his favorite subject, maximizing the revenue potential of sports teams (and particularly Premier League teams).
As we’ve seen already, for him that does involve investing heavily in the team and the infrastructure — and that’s to our benefit — but his vision goes beyond that as well, both in the business sense and in the player development aspect. Boehly’s targeting the sort of pan-European and global operation that the likes of Red Bull and Manchester City have started creating.
“We’re going to be continuously adding resources. We’ve talked about having a multi-club model. I would love to continue to build out the footprint. There’s different countries where there’s advantages to having a club. Red Bull does a really good job at Leipzig and at Salzburg, both of which are playing in the Champions League, so they’ve figured out how to make that work. You have Man City that has a very big network of clubs.
“[...] Our goal is to make sure we can show pathways for our young superstars to get onto the Chelsea pitch while getting them real game time. To me the way to do that is through another club somewhere in a really competitive league in Europe.”
-Todd Boehly; source: SALT via Metro
Boehly brought up Mo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Tammy Abraham, Reece James, Mason Mount, and Trevoh Chalobah as examples where such a system would have been to our benefit — the current loan pathways worked for some of them but also failed spectacularly for some of them, and in theory, if we controlled both sides of the operation, those failure rates could be reduced. It’s certainly a worthy idea to explore, at least before UEFA and FIFA change the rules in response, just as they did after Abramovich pushed past the edge of the financial envelope in 2003.
Given his audience, Boehly also mused about various ideas that could be easily used as cash grabs without too much strain on resources and time, such as an All-Star Game or relegation playoffs. That idea was put to Jürgen Klopp for whatever reason, and was met with expected derision and mockery for a cheap and easy win with the peanut gallery, but Boehly’s point is that there in massive untapped potential in the league and he will undoubtedly continue to try to create new opportunities for his team, the league, and the entire pyramid to benefit from that. (And it’s not like an All-Star Game or whatever would be all that different from a Charity Shield or some random exhibition match. You know, Jürgen, some All-Star Games get played at the end of seasons, like in the NFL. But anyway.)
“Ultimately I hope the Premier League takes a little bit of a lesson from American sports. And really starts to figure out, why don’t we do a tournament with the bottom four sports teams, why isn’t there an All-Star game?
“People are talking about more money for the pyramid, in the MLB All-Star game this year we made 200 million dollars from a Monday and a Tuesday. So we’re thinking we could do a north versus south All-Star game for the Premier League, for whatever the pyramid needed quite easily.
“Everyone likes the idea of more revenue for the league. I think there’s a real cultural aspect, I think evolution will come.”
-Todd Boehly; source: SALT via Metro
You can watch Boehly’s entire 30-minute interview at the SALT Conference below — even if you don’t move in those moneyed circles. We may not agree with everything when it comes to that vaguely defined concept of the “good of the game”, but we certainly cannot accuse him of lacking vision and, more importantly, being willing to spend to make that vision happen.