It was never going to be the end of an era. Roman Abramovich saw to that.
It is the end of his era. The age when money was no object in the pursuit of glory for Chelsea.
Managers may get more time, profit and value may be more obviously sought, but Chelsea were never going to go under.
Roman Abramovich’s era as Chelsea’s owner is officially over after he sold the club on Monday
Todd Boehly (centre), in attendance at Stamford Bridge, has been confirmed as the new majority owner of Chelsea along with Clearlake Capital after a huge £4.25billion takeover
The first day of the Todd Boehly era is still Abramovich’s day, too; because it is the club he created that was bought. Those who hoped that, without Abramovich, Chelsea would crumble or at least shrink will be disappointed.
Abramovich was a billionaire and he created a football club that could only be of interest to other billionaires if it was sold. That doesn’t mean it cannot fail from here. That doesn’t mean Boehly’s consortium could turn out to be less gifted custodians than the Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool, for instance.
Not every billionaire runs a successful football club. Stan Kroenke is a very rich owner, too, but Arsenal continue to struggle. When was the last time the Glazers got it right at Manchester United?
Yet Abramovich’s football club, for now at least, will be kept in the manner to which it is accustomed. Boehly’s first day was spent pledging to continue investment in Chelsea. He promised to make the fans proud. ‘We’re 100 per cent, we’re all in,’ he said. And what would be the point otherwise, really? Chelsea are not the London club with the shiny new stadium. While restricted to a capacity of little more than 40,000 at Stamford Bridge, they remain a big and costly project.
Plus, unlike every other American investor, Boehly is buying in knowing the Super League project is dead.
Boehly inherits a European powerhouse made successful under Abramovich’s vast spending
Who knows where the rest of the venture capitalists thought English football would be heading. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus took the blame, but for all we know the Premier League contingent – Fenway, the Glazers, the Kroenkes – were angling for this all along.
Maybe they saw it coming, that one day there would be a breakaway, a coup, a plot to maximize revenues, and they could be there, on the inside. Take over the English game and steal it, mold it to their enormous advantage and profit.
Yet Boehly is different. He arrives knowing that moment has passed. When he says he’s all in, he’s all in to a system that is not changing any time in the foreseeable future.
Chelsea will play in the Premier League, Chelsea will play in UEFA competitions. Yes, elite clubs will always try to turn the screw on those below. Chelsea will still be party to the grifts, the schemes to take more money from the broadcast cycle, the competitive European cycle. The historic places, the safety nets, the guaranteed revenue streams whether good, bad or indifferent, Chelsea and Boehly will be party to that, as Abramovich was.
But the Super League is dead and that would have been the big win. All of the parties seeking to buy Chelsea went to enormous lengths to charm the fans who turned so spectacularly and successfully on their proposed breakaway a year ago.
Boehly buys Chelsea knowing the opportunity of joining a breakaway Super League is over
Boehly knows Chelsea’s fan base would be lost if he even floated the idea and new regulations will soon make any such breakaway a legal impossibility, without as good as destroying the club.
So he is buying in on what Chelsea are now. He is buying in on a domestic league, two domestic cups and, with luck, a European competition. Perhaps if FIFA expand the Club World Cup, Chelsea will be involved in that, too.
Chelsea also have another excellent revenue stream through their successful academy, and if Boehly redevelops Stamford Bridge there is money to be made there. But the fear he will join forces with the other American owners in the Premier League is false. That ship has sailed.
Boehly, is buying into Chelsea as is. That was Abramovich’s greatest gift. He created a club that did not need him to make it appealing.