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English Premier League

No Chelsea For The Rickettses

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 19: Owner Tom Ricketts of the Chicago Cubs is seen on the field before the Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on September 19, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Sometime in the last 24 to 48 hours, Tom Ricketts awoke to the jaw-slackening revelation that the fans of the soccer team he, his family, and other investors rwere trying to buy would rather have nobody than them. So he did the only thing he could do: withdraw the family bid and cite “the unusual dynamics around the sales process,” which in this case is code for “Dad.”

Not that Chelsea fans are bastions of purity, mind you. They cheerfully accepted Roman Abramovich’s largesse for years. But since Abramovich fled the jurisdiction because of U.K. sanctions and left the team to the night janitor, Chelsea has been running an auction for the team because, well, someone has to pay for Christian Pulisic’s next injury rehab.

It just won’t be the deeply unpopular Ricketts clan. Think on that a second, as Tom surely must have. I mean, sure they wrecked a lot of Wrigley Field’s ambience and stripped the Chicago Cubs down within a few years of their first World Series since 1908, but still, Putin’s minion rather than the folks who got rid of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant?

Actually, we’re being cute here. The “unusual dynamics” were almost surely e-mails from Tom’s father Joe attacking Islam as a cult and calling Muslims “my enemy.” Chelsea fans, fresh from their stand against the Super League a year ago, jammed wrench after wrench in the spokes of the sale to the point where the club’s caretakers clearly concluded that the deal could not go forward without having to replace Stamford Bridge after the fans burned it to the ground. Fan empowerment may be a foreign concept in the U.S., but the Brits take this stuff a bit more seriously, to their credit.

A paid whisperer tried to minimize the effect of the fans’ objections by downplaying Joe’s emails and describing the sticking point as “the terms of the final proposal,” but that seems dubious. You don’t go this far and haggle over a comma here or there, even if it is wedged between zeroes. Nothing is worse than making a bad first impression that begins with the sentence, “Your dad’s a racist brute.” Put another way, the fans didn’t even seem to mind that one of the investors in the Ricketts group was Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

Thus, the club is essentially left to be sold to one of three groups: a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers and Lakers minority owner Todd Boehly; a consortium led by Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca; and a consortium led by Sir Martin Broughton that includes Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who jointly own the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils and have a chunk of Crystal Palace, which weirdly enough plays Chelsea Sunday in one of the two FA Cup semi-finals.

The final decision on a preferred bidder is expected to be made early next week by consultancy firm Raine and Associates, in conjunction with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. In the meantime, Chelsea has dodged a very unpleasant choice in exchange for a slightly less unpleasant choice. When you’re talking this kind of money, the breadth of options are remarkably narrow.

As for today’s development, thanks Pops.