It’s pretty clear that the Ricketts family, who own the Cubs, look upon Fenway Sports Group as something of an idol. They took their GM from Boston and made him the president of the Cubs. You know him as Theo Epstein. They have remade Wrigley Field and the neighborhood around it in the same fashion FSG did with Fenway and that area. And when FSG said they weren’t going to go over the luxury tax, which caused them to trade Mookie Betts, the Ricketts were clearly inspired and took it to another level, slashing and burning their 2016 World Series winner over a few seasons.
And now they want to take another cue from FSG, by purchasing a leading Premier League club, Chelsea. Except they’re not going to get the welcome wagon that FSG got in Liverpool.
The #NoToRicketts hashtag was making the rounds on Twitter yesterday, started by a former Chelsea player Paul Canoville, the first Black player in Chelsea’s history. The feeling behind the social media protest mostly centers on those emails from family patriarch, and leading yokel, Joe Ricketts, that were racist against Muslims.
Here’s what Joe Ricketts wrote:
“Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims”
Joe has since apologized, but come on. And the family released a statement condemning racism. But come on.
Part of the social media movement is that Chelsea has two Muslim players in its first team, Antoine Rudiger and N’Golo Kante, and it would be awkward at best for the offspring to use Racist Dad’s money to become their boss. It also wouldn’t align with Chelsea’s ever evolving support.
Lower on the levels of concern is how the Ricketts would run the club. They certainly do not have Abramovich money, and what their knowledge and connections are in the soccer world to find someone to run the club efficiently like FSG found in Liverpool through the likes of Michael Edwards is unknown. Even though the Ricketts children struggle to tie their shoes correctly, they did stumble upon Epstein once upon a time. Of course, they then immediately tied his hands once they got the one World Series and all the stadium and neighborhood improvements they wanted.
But this isn’t buying the Cubs from the Tribune. And a prospective owner is going to have to win over the fans before even stepping through the door. The Supporters Trust of Chelsea is going to meet with every shortlisted, prospective buyer and will be listening intently.
While the Premier League has become a multi-billion dollar business and then some, and the clubs at the top are some of the biggest organizations in the world, the fans still get something of a say, look no further than last spring’s aborted “Super League” to see that they do wield the occasional sword. Chelsea’s supporters were the first and most vocal, taking to the streets to voice their displeasure, which is why Chelsea was the first to pull out of the doomed project. It of course didn’t hurt that Abramovich didn’t need the Super League money, but he and his execs certainly heard the cacophony.
There are some similarities for the Ricketts, as Chelsea’s home Stamford Bridge needs some work and trails behind the competition in size as far as capacity. But they won’t get public help on that either
American ownership is always held in suspicion in the U.K. and Europe, given the way American sports work and America capitalism even more so. Which sounds strange, given that Newcastle just recently welcomed Saudi ownership. Some of that is due to the stewardship of the previous owner, who nearly destroyed the club. Some of that was the promise of an open checkbook to turn Newcastle into Chelsea Northeast. Neither of those are acceptable reasons to be so welcoming to a Saudi regime, but it’s explainable.
The Ricketts will find neither situation in West London now. Abramovich may be a friend to a murderous dictator, but he still turned Chelsea from a mid-table club into a world power. Fans expect that to remain. And if there’s any Chelsea supporters who hope the Ricketts will come with a similarly open checkbook…