At the heart of the CPO debate lies one question: Can we trust Roman Abramovich? If the answer is ‘yes’, then we can look forward to sustained success in a shiny new stadium within spitting distance of Stamford Bridge.
If the answer is no, we can look forward to being shunted to Twickenham in 2020 whilst our Russian owner pockets £750 million by selling Stamford Bridge – 12.5 acres of prime real estate situated in the most highly prized residential area in London. Vodkas all round!
It’s not just Chelsea Pitch Owners who realise this is the crux of the issue – the Club does too. Indeed the recent PR offensive by Chelsea has focused on wheeling players out, both past and present, simply to tell us that Roman is nothing less than a cuddly old Russian teddy bear – John Terry being the unlucky fall guy forced to put his name to an interview on Chelseafc.com last Wednesday, “we have to trust him”.
If Roman can be trusted why can’t he guarantee where the Club will move to? The Club’s argument that developers won’t negotiate with Chelsea because of the CPO issue is, frankly, bullshit of the dirtiest variety. A number of commercial real estate owners and estate agents have confirmed this.
This issue of ‘trust’ is a difficult one. To date Roman has been a magnificent owner who has invested £100’s of millions of his own money into delivering us the sort of team we’d dared not have imagined ten years ago. Three Premierships, two Carling Cups and three FA Cups (as well as sustained Champions League forays) later, who dares say Roman can’t be trusted?
Well, Jose Mourinho for one. The best manager in world football had to face the indignity of Avram Grant being installed as ‘Director of Football’ in early 2007. As one Israeli contact said at the time, “Avram Grant will be the new manager of Chelsea FC, it’s just a matter of time”. The source continued, “it’s a coup d’état”. He was right. Jose also had to suffer trophy players being bought against his wishes, Andrei Shevchenko being a particularly nasty surprise.
Ray Wilkins, Chelsea’s youngest ever captain isn’t that keen on Roman either. Sacked at half-time during a reserve game, totally against Ancelotti’s wishes, Ray’s only crime was to get a little pissed during the Spartak Moscow Champions League away trip and to stand up to Roman after the exit to Inter by saying, quote, “let’s leave the inquest for another day.” After Ray left, the team fell apart.
The list goes on and on.
Let’s be clear. No one becomes a multi-billionaire at 36 by playing ‘fair’. Roman Abramovich was brought up in a quasi-mafia society where deals are done in smoky backrooms with goons ‘packing heat’ standing in the shadows. As Roman’s Wikipedia entry attests, “Abramovich started his multi-billion-dollar business during his army service where he sold stolen gasoline to commissioned officers in his unit”.
The Times newspaper is actually on record stating that Abramovich “famously emerged triumphant after the ‘aluminium wars’, in which more than 100 people are believed to have been killed in gangland feuds over control of the lucrative smelters….numerous officials and executives are said to have lost their lives.”
But perhaps the last word should be left with Boris Berezovsky who, ironically, is currently suing Roman Abramovich for £3.9 billion which he claims the latter owes him after forcing him to sell his stake in Sibneft at a hugely discounted price. Abramovich, he says, will “convince somebody personally he may serve them so well. And you trust him so much that you really believe he is sincere. My case rests on one fact – Abramovich lied.”
I love you Roman.
But trust you? Sorry chum.
I’m voting ‘No’ (unless you give me a secure guarantee, legally binding, over the future of my Club).