These are certainly chastening days for the sport. Sunday’s match between imperilled Chelsea and Saudi Arabian-bankrolled Newcastle United was dubbed in places as ‘the sportswashing derby’. It was portrayed by some critics as one of the darkest episodes in the history of the Premier League.
With the Club World champions in turmoil, sponsors deserting the club, and fears of financial ruin amid a block on merchandising and ticket sales, Chelsea’s fans now face opprobrium because a section of their support continue to sing the name of the man whose fortune brought them almost two decades of glory.
This singing was despite the government describing Abramovich as “a pro-Kremlin oligarch” who has had a “close relationship” with Vladimir Putin for decades, and obtained “financial benefit” and “preferential treatment” from that relationship.
One of the companies Abramovich co-owns, the government claims, may even have made steel for Russian tanks. That has been denied by the firm and Abramovich – who has always rejected suggestions of links with the Russian President.
But given the horrors Putin has unleashed on Ukraine, many are appalled that so many Chelsea fans remain loyal to the oligarch, and concerned at what that reveals about football’s priorities and values.metasports