Roman Abramovich: Chelsea’s silent protector and the man behind football’s paradigm shift

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich celebrating Chelsea’s second Champions League victory. | Credit: Getty Images

In football there are auras that surround players, managers, fanbases, and clubs; not very often are these feelings dictated and spearheaded by owners, until Roman Abramovich came along.

The conversations that take place surrounding Mr. Abramovich in the football world are simply unprecedented. He is the precedent himself. Continuously setting elite standards for himself and his club. The people that benefit are the supporters.

Without the ownership of Mr. Abramovich, Chelsea supporters would have been behind on their current three European trips to Champions League finals, add in another two weekends away for Europa League victories and the small matter of the most performances at the new Wembley, all of these taking place under Abramovich’s ownership. Equally, he has invested in the future of football by developing a world-class academy and been a pioneer in investing and developing women’s football.

Not to mention, under Mr. Abramovich’s leadership, Chelsea Foundation has become the largest charity in U.K. football and are taking a global lead in the fight against racism, antisemitism, and discrimination. Couple this with Chelsea’s management during the worst of the pandemic and you will quickly realise the elite standard of ownership Abramovich has set. Unlike some other big clubs, Mr. Abramovich guaranteed the full payment for all of Chelsea’s employees, with no furloughed workers, kept the club hotel open free of charge for NHS workers, and delivered meals for NHS staff and vulnerable groups in London. He also continued funding the Chelsea Foundation which carried out massive efforts to support the community, including raising £500,000 to help women and children suffering from domestic abuse.

The aura, as mentioned above, is one that isn’t necessarily directly felt on a day-to-day basis by fans and players at Cobham or Stamford Bridge, but it’s the sense of belonging, ambition, and need to win that Abramovich has instilled into the fabric of the club.

No matter who it is at Chelsea Football Club that is the current best player, leader, coach, or manager, there is a guiding light. Mr. Abramovich doesn’t so much as rule with an iron fist, but the imprint of such early single-minded and purely dominant success has left an everlasting entitlement at the club. An outline that carries a taste so sweet no Michelin star chef could dream of, a feeling described so often as indescribable. The reason that people play the beautiful game. Winning.

Where He Ranks In The Footballing World

In a conversation regarding the best and most important figures at a club you might see Lionel Messi crop up for his dazzling dribbling and historical greatness, or Sir Alex Ferguson for his top-flight longevity and success in rebuilding great teams to become even better. Johan Cruyff, the genius footballer in his time, could lay down the strongest of arguments that his style of management set sail for the biggest paradigm shift in on-pitch tactics and playstyles that the game has ever seen. These are the biggest names in world football and there is a man that belongs in this conversation. The biggest of the big men, in the highest of the high castles. A silent protector. Roman Abramovich has transformed the Premier League and the whole of English football for the good, his introduction to the British shores alone has sparked changes in the modern game that won’t be reversed.

Chelsea’s owner has transformed not only the monetary gain that clubs in England see due to large transfer sums dictated by desire and passion to bring success to the club, but also his standards. The knock-on effect of the so-called ‘instability’ at Chelsea is that the Blues are constantly evolving as a team on the pitch and as a club. Not only have they become the only English team to win the Champions League in London ever, since Abramovich’s reign started only Liverpool have won more than one Champions League, but Chelsea can also now boast two stars above the famous and feared lion badge themselves.

In the same time, Chelsea have become domestic league winners five times, a number only matched by Manchester City who are themselves attempting not to recreate Abramovich’s dominance but to create the strongest of ties between a club and the community, another precedent in the modern game which has been set by Chelsea’s owner on the biggest of scales.

Off the pitch, the timeline of events that precede Mr. Abramovich’s first summer at Chelsea follows a line that has indirectly contributed massively to the rising commercialisation and globalisation of football and sport.

Although the Premier League was starting to attract more foreign stars before Abramovich came to England, at Chelsea players such as Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola, William Gallas, and Eidur Gudjohnsen were all in the squad, the rise of true world icons being attracted and playing in England got a kick start. Mr. Abramovich instigated greater funding for players, the hiring of exciting new managers, and improved training and fitness facilities. Higher standards from the top of the club have permeated the life-blood of Chelsea where the expectation is to consistently be the best.

The idea of winning is a simple, effective, and extremely attractive one but it is easy to fall from the pedestal if the method to getting to the top of the mountain isn’t right. This shouldn’t be misconstrued as standards falling, Chelsea as a club has had to adapt and rebuild from the players through to the board. However, one man that has not moved away from that and perhaps sees an image clearer in his head than ever before is Roman Abramovich.

It is not just wrong to dismiss the impact of Abramovich as ‘buying the game’, it is disrespectful to a man who isn’t far from being a founding father of the current game that we all watch. Like it or not, the stars of the global game we have now are bearing some of the fruits that come from Abramovich’s ambition.

His desire to take over stems not from power, not out of greed but out of pleasure to succeed and pure love for the club. Chelsea is his obsession just as much as it is the fans. Although hard to see amid the European Super League scandal and Stamford Bridge stadium battle, Mr. Abramovich’s dream is for a better Chelsea. One that revolves around a club with a strong community presence and an overarching aim of success at all levels.

These facts speak for themselves. As supporters, we want to see Roman back at Stamford Bridge, where he belongs. If the Government has made him feel unwelcome, they should reconsider based on his record.

Roman Abramovich is a valuable member of our community and the best and most progressive club owner in world football. Expect more success in the very near future.

Written by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

Edited by Jai McIntosh (@JJMcintosh5)

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