Statue Or Shame? How Should Football Remember Roman Abramovich's Time At Chelsea?

Some fans have called for Roman Abramovich to receive a statue at Stamford Bridge. Others would rather move on from his ownership
11:28, 01 Jun 2022

Roman Abramovich’s 19 years as owner of Chelsea Football Club are at an end. The impact he had on the club’s on-field results cannot be overstated. He took over a side that had won a single league title in their history. A further five Premier League titles have been secured under his stewardship. That is without mentioning the two Champions League trophies, eight domestic cups and two Europa League triumphs. Trophies were a rare commodity when Abramovich first visited Stamford Bridge. Now they are a requirement. 

But in recent months, Abramovich’s ownership of the club has become complicated. Alleged links between the oligarch and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, have come under the microscope. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich’s links to the regime resulted in sanctions from the British government. This has seen his reputation tarnished, and necessitated the sale of the club.

The funds from the £4.25 billion sale to Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital will not benefit Abramovich and will instead be placed by the government into a fund for charitable distributions to victims of the Russian invasion. But money is black and white. It can be moved and it can be invested. Reputations are harder to manipulate. For all the criticism Abramovich has endured for his links to Putin, a section of Chelsea fans are willing to defend him.

“#ThankYouRoman” has trended on Twitter numerous times since the Boehly purchase was confirmed. Chelsea influencer Astrid Wett’s tweet calling for a statue of Abramovich to be erected outside Stamford Bridge garnered over 4000 likes. She was not the only one to make the suggestion and receive hundreds of positive responses for doing so. Sections of the Chelsea fanbase are vocally grateful for the Roman Abramovich years, and view him as a hero despite the realities of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Abramovichwavejpg

Football supporters are increasingly being asked to address moral dilemmas as part of the fan experience. Manchester City and Newcastle United fans cannot escape the spectre of the human rights abusers that own their respective clubs. Magpies boss Eddie Howe has at least had the question put to him, but for all the praise heaped upon City and Pep Guardiola, so much is swept under the Etihad carpet that you can’t walk into the foyer without tripping over an inconvenient truth. 

Now it is Chelsea fans’ turn to confront the actions of their outgoing owner. For some die hard Blues, they are probably grateful that Abramovich is on his way out, taking his toxic baggage with him. But others are going to great lengths to lionise the man, even in the face of harrowing daily dispatches from the war in Ukraine. Football fans are not politicians or thought leaders, and cannot be expected to tailor their opinions to social acceptability. But at the same time, no trophy is worth a life and despite the gilded age Chelsea have enjoyed under Abramovich, a statue sounds grossly insensitive.

Like it or not, Abramovich’s time at Chelsea will always carry an asterisk. The way it ended will always serve as an epilogue to the joyous trophy lifts and the pomp of Bridge heroes like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry. No one can argue Abramovich was an effective football club owner, and Chelsea fans certainly should not be blamed for looking back at that time fondly. They watched their club ascend from mid-table cup team to European giants. Any fan would relish such a journey. But perhaps it is time to stop hero-worshipping the man who bank-rolled it.

x
Suggested Searches:
The Sportsman
Manchester United
Liverpool
Manchester City
Premier League
Sportsman HQ
72-76 Cross St
Manchester M2 4JG
We will not ask you to provide any personal information when using The Sportsman website. You may see advertisement banners on the site, and if you choose to visit those websites, you will accept the terms and conditions and privacy policy applicable to those websites. The link below directs you to our Group Privacy Policy, and our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at: DataProtection@Betfred.com

All original material is Copyright © 2019 by The Sportsman Communications Ltd.
Other material is copyright their respective owners.