Chelsea superstar Fran Kirby has revealed in a recent interview with The Times that when new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly paid a visit to Kingsmeadow, he found the facilities there simply “not acceptable” for team of Chelsea’s quality and ambition.
“[We] sat with Todd and met people on the board, and they just seemed super, super positive about women’s football and women’s sport in general. They came down to the facilities and said this is not acceptable for a club like Chelsea.
“We have always got on with it. We’ve had a moan here and there when we’ve had to come up here at 7am to use the pool — I’m not a morning person! — but we’ve got stuff done, won some trophies.”
To further illustrate the situation “down there” (i.e. Kingsmeadow), Kirby jokes about finally having a kitchen this year, while a serviceable dressing room was only added a few years ago, not long after the stadium was made the home stadium of the women’s team starting in 2017-18. (The Academy followed officially in 2020, with AFC Wimbledon fully moving out then as well.)
“Hey, we’ve got a kitchen now! We’re perfectly alright down there. [...] I remember when we got lockers down there and we were absolutely buzzing. That was probably four years ago.
“We have always been affiliated with Chelsea but to actually have that affiliation and to feel everyone supports everyone, congratulates everyone and wants everyone to achieve, it’s really big for the women’s game to have a club that drives those standards. Chelsea have been massive in driving that. Other teams are now catching on.”
Chelsea have been at the forefront in supporting and funding the women’s game, and that certainly hasn’t changed with the change in ownership: five massive new signings (Périsset, Buchanan, Svitková, Kaneryd, Čanković) and a few important new contracts, including to Millie Bright and Maren Mjelde, to give Emma Hayes, the best coach in the business, all the help we can.
Kirby herself is in the final year of her contract, though we do have the option to extend that by a further year even if we don’t agree a new deal before then. The new owners may be facing various bits of criticism from various corners of the establishment, most of it wholly unjustified, but their support for Chelsea, men’s, women’s, academies has been unwavering (if perhaps a bit overbearing).
“The owners want to drive every aspect of the club. They want to drive us, drive the academy, drive the men’s team more. You can see that with the signings they’ve made, the money they’ve spent — not just for the men but for us as well.”
-Fran Kirby; source: The Times
The ownership group already talked about improving, refurbishing, rebuilding both Kingsmeadow and Stamford Bridge during the bidding process, so hopefully we’ll see some concrete plans in that regard soon as well.