Advertisement

Chelsea owners have made club a ‘laughing stock’ say supporters

Todd Boehly
Boehly has been accused of weakening the relationship between fans and the club - REUTERS/David Klein

Chelsea’s under-fire chief executive Chris Jurasek has been accused of ignoring the concerns of supporters over broken promises and the threat of “irreversible toxicity” towards co-controlling owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali.

In a 1,500-word letter sent to Boehly and Eghbali earlier this month, Chelsea’s Supporters’ Trust stressed the “urgent requirement to engage with the wider fanbase” and set out a host of issues including:

  • a fast-growing lack of trust towards the board;

  • the feeling that the club is becoming a laughing stock;

  • broken pledges on pricing;

  • a failure of existing supporter engagement mechanisms;

  • the threat of protests.

Jurasek, who has been accused of referring to fans as “customers” and received criticism for cutting bus subsidies for away travel, responded in a letter to the Trust on Wednesday.

In the letter, Jurasek said: “Our goal is the same as your goal: to ensure Chelsea Football Club has a bright and successful future. To do so, there is a necessity to increase club revenue to put us on a par with our rivals and allow us to compete in both the Premier League and Women’s Super League, as well as in domestic and European competitions. There are several ways we are already doing that and will further explore.”

It added: “To be clear, we endeavour to have regular and strong communication with all our supporters, across all our teams, and aim to enhance and improve this connection season-on-season. We welcome the thoughts of our supporter groups on how to further enhance this connection.”

Mark Meehan, Chelsea Supporters’ Trust chairman, responded by saying: “We appreciate the response from Chris Jurasek, the Chelsea chief executive. However, in our opinion, it doesn’t really address the issue we raised, which was about the club opening up to a wider group of fans in order to explain and reassure at what is a difficult and challenging time for everyone.

“There are serious supporter concerns about the direction of the club, and particularly the disconnection felt towards the club ownership, board as well as the majority of the team and the manager.”

In a pointed reference to a report that Jurasek referred to supporters as “customers”, Meehan added: “A football club belongs to its supporters and the CST will continue to do everything in its power to guarantee that the voices of those supporters are heard from the stands to the boardroom and ensure that Chelsea supporters are at the very centre of every key decision made by the club – we are supporters, not customers.”

Boehly, who is Chelsea’s chairman, has already been the target of abuse from angry supporters, while head coach Mauricio Pochettino and forward Raheem Sterling have been booed.

Mauricio Pochettino and Raheem Sterling
Pochettino and Sterling have not endeared themselves to Chelsea fans - AFP/GLYN KIRK

In their original letter to Boehly and Eghbali, the Supporters’ Trust said: “The current feeling amongst Chelsea supporters in our opinion is at its lowest since the early 1980s…a significant number of supporters that we speak to are quick to express concerns that the lack of any public-facing vision from the new ownership has led to an overwhelming sense of helplessness, frustration, and deep concern.

“Supporters are saying that there currently seems a fast-growing lack of trust from much of the fanbase, especially matchgoers, towards the board, partially due to severely limited communication. Many supporters have significant concerns about the short and long-term future of our football club.”

It added: “The current mood amongst supporters is critically low and cannot be ignored. The feeling that the club has become a ‘laughing stock’, both on and off the pitch, is growing.

“The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust regretfully believes that we are close to, if not already experiencing, a significant shift in supporter opinion that could result in irreversible toxicity, almost irrespective of results on the pitch.

“Unless the situation improves, this seems likely to manifest itself in more targeted chanting, especially at televised games, and quite possibly more organised, overt, and impactful forms of protest by some sections of the fanbase.”

Addressing an increase in prices since the Boehly-Eghbali takeover, the letter said: “When you began your stewardship of Chelsea FC, you communicated to supporters that you would look to grow every commercial revenue stream and double the income to bring us in line with other major Premier League clubs. We were informed that only once all commercial revenue streams were exhausted would the club hit the pockets of the supporters. Supporters are frustrated and angry that this pledge has been broken.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.