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Abramovich deserves better: Why time English football stood up for Chelsea's owner

COMMENT: So what's worse? The actions of the British government? The silence of English football? Or the compliance of the local media? Take your pick. Because there's plenty culpable for the scandalous treatment of Roman Abramovich - and Chelsea Football Club.

Don't worry, we'll get to it. But forget blame. Forget politics. Forget international relations. Just consider this: a man who has poured over a billion pounds into the British economy. Who has called London home for almost 15 years. Who's children have been raised and educated in the country. Not only has he been effectively banned from the UK - without any charge or claim against him. He's had to seek refuge in Israel. Refused entry to the UK, but offered sanctuary and support in Israel? It just smacks you between the eyes.

John Aldridge is wrong. The Liverpool legend declared just last week that Chelsea "are not a big club" and that only "a sugar-daddy benefactor has put them on a pedestal for the last few years".

Aldo could say that 20 years ago, when he was winding down his career at Tranmere Rovers. But he can't claim that today. Abramovich's finances still support the club, there's no doubt about that. But they are self-financing. And the greatest achievement in his 15 years in charge has been the development of Chelsea into a world power. The days of John Bumstead and David Speedie are long gone. Their global appeal is on a scale of Barcelona and Liverpool - and far outstrips any team in Italy or Germany. Chelsea are Africa's club. We've seen it here at Tribalfootball.com over our journey online. The Blues have gone from a so-so, now-and-then, headline draw to a global powerhouse.

As big as any giant in the Far East. Growing - consciously - a huge following in the US. And in Africa, their popularity is unmatched. None of this would've happened without their Russian owner.

Indeed, in terms of popularity and profile, this column would argue no club in football can match the achievements of Chelsea during the Abramovich era. And it's a popularity. And an image of positivity. That has been happily exploited to the UK's advantage in business and diplomatic relations by the very same institutions that are now turning the Russian's business and family life upside down.

These 15 years of success. It didn't just happen. It took investment. In people. In their ideas. And Abramovich supporting them.

Way before anyone had heard of the Rooney Rule. Of virtue signaling. Abramovich brought in Michael Emenalo, a Nigerian, to run his football club. Over his time in charge, he's broken many barriers - without a hint of self congratulation. Tal Ben Haim, Demba Ba, Avram Grant, Mo Salah. Your background has never mattered. You can do the job? Your hired. After Emanelo came Marina Granovskaia. A first woman to run Chelsea. But again, without hoopla or fanfare. Like Emenalo. Like any hire made by Abramovich and his board, Granovskaia was chosen on merit. Oh yeah, this man must stopped...

Problem is, he has stopped. The £1bn redevelopment of Stamford Bridge is now on-hold. Some say scrapped. All that investment. Those local jobs. Those local dreams. Wiped. And all by a government mechanism where Abramovich is forced to prove his innocence in building his wealth. The onus should be on those proving guilt, not the the opposite. Innocent before proven guilty? Not in the Russian's case.

So is it any wonder he's pulled the plug on the renovation? The prevailing gist in the local press is that Abramovich has the hump. Like a spoilt kid, he's taken his bat and run home. Which is bloody ridiculous considering everything he's done for Chelsea and English football.

This is the time for the local game. For local football identities. To be rallying to Abramovich's cause. For all he's done for the Premier League. For it's global recognition. It warrants support - and vocal support.

He doesn't deserve this. Chelsea doesn't deserve this. As much as Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Beckham, Abramovich built the foundations of the Premier League. And he's synonymous with it's global appeal.

In terms of English football and the country itself, Abramovich's ledger is well in the black. The game owes the Chelsea owner more than it's current silence.

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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