The conflict of conscience over how high the price of goals and wins should be could not be ignored in English football on Thursday night. In the league match between Norwich City and Chelsea, which unsurprisingly ended 3-1 to Chelsea, both sets of fans loudly challenged each other.
Hours after the government ordered the seizure of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s assets, supporters of the London club vehemently backed the Russian oligarchs. They wooed the commodity billionaire with chants and rejoiced at having won “every” club football title (“We’ve won it all”) with the help of his loans, now estimated at almost exactly €1.8bn. . To the direct response of the Norwich fans that Chelsea would have lost “everything” as a result of the state intervention (“You have lost everything”), came the retaliation that Norwich would “relegate” after the season (“You you go down”). Supporters at the bottom of the table did not let it go either. The accountant: “You’re going bankrupt.” You guys in Chelsea are going to be broke for this!
Unlike most of the taunts in the stands in England, which are otherwise drowned out by the roar of the Premier League, the clash between Norwich and Chelsea resonated. Almost all the major media made their way through the statements of solidarity for Abramovich the next day. the Times he headlined that the fans acted as “PR bots for Abramovich and Putin.” Supporters have adored the club owner since 2003, when he took over the former middle-class club as a €200m investment to later shape into a global brand.
As long as you have “t-shirts and a bus”, you will face the situation – says Thomas Tuchel
In Abramovich’s tow, all sorts of other super-rich entrepreneurs bought their way into top English football, even entire countries. Aside from isolated criticism, such as after the Saudi sovereign wealth fund’s entry into Newcastle United in autumn 2021, which was branded as sports laundering, fans, media and politicians seemed to prefer the global appeal of the Premier League for a long time. time, which rose to become the country’s export success.
But suddenly hardly anyone on the island wants to know any more about this after the UK government released a 42-page sanctions list to the public on Thursday, according to which 204 entrepreneurs and 65 companies are being punished for their nepotism. with the Russian belligerents. declare the freezing of their assets.
Second on the list is Abramovich, whose passport numbers have even been revealed. He is said to be – what he himself denies – a “prominent oligarch affiliated with the Kremlin” who has obtained “material advantages” through his closeness to Putin and who has contributed to the “destabilization of Ukraine” through his shares in the aim of the steel company Evraz. The concrete suspicion is: Participation in the “supply of steel to the Russian army”. Foreign Minister Liz Truss said martially that the “blood of the Ukrainian people” hangs “in the hands” of those sanctioned, including Abramovich.
To ensure that Abramovich, 55, who was also banned from entering the country, would under no circumstances receive a penny from the UK, Britain has also placed far-reaching restrictions on Chelsea Football Club. These currently make the club barely viable.
For this reason, talks between the club and the Ministry of Sport about relaxing the measures are said to have taken place immediately. While the tabloids were already questioning Chelsea’s future competitiveness, manager Thomas Tuchel emphasized that he was “still happy” in London. As long as Chelsea have “enough jerseys and a bus” to get to games, their team will be up to the challenge. When asked about the behavior of the fans, Tuchel replied that he “hadn’t listened” to their benevolent appeals to Abramovich.
In reality, the ownership structures of many other clubs should be put to the test.
As efforts to sell Chelsea FC in the near future, which would ensure its continued existence, continue with special government permission in the background, all of football on the island now faces an unavoidable question: How should the excesses of the previously unbridled football capitalism? will be treated in the future will be? the Times he wrote that everyone in the country should consider how “this dirty profit” could be accepted in the first place. Because the almost unlimited ownership of clubs to this day, combined with the excessive pursuit of profit, have apparently led the Premier League to a dead end.
In view of the complex interplay of sporting, political and economic interests, the ownership structures of many other clubs should be put to the test. In particular, the Saudi-led Newcastle United, who are ironically a guest at Chelsea this Sunday, even if it is claimed that the club is not under the direct control of autocratic Saudi Arabia.
In view of the new world situation, the league had no choice but to cancel the expensive television contract negotiated with the Russian broadcaster Okko Sport. A similar problem arose last week with the Chinese provider IQIYI Sports, which in turn suspended the broadcast of the England game because China did not like the solidarity gestures of the clubs with the victims of the war in Ukraine. As early as 2020, the Premier League clashed with China’s then-rights owner CCTV, which had moved major games in English to less popular channels after a political dispute between the two countries.
All of these unsavory developments suggest that England’s clubs face a price for their current supremacy in world football.