Ricketts family to fly in to meet fans' groups and issue statement rejecting all forms of hate; Blues fan Candy improves his bid; British-funded bid involving club season-ticket holders also revealed it is trying to buy the club; imminent decision on shortlist of preferred bidders
Wednesday 23 March 2022 15:14, UK
The Ricketts family are flying to London to meet key stakeholders of Chelsea as they wait to discover if they are on the shortlist of preferred bidders for the club.
The race to buy Chelsea is hotting up with the Raine Group meeting now to create a shortlist of the best-placed groups to take control of the club, with an announcement expected imminently and ownership of the Premier League club to change hands within a month.
Sky Sports News understands the purpose of the Ricketts' trip is to meet key stakeholders of the club, including the Chelsea Supporters' Trust and the Chelsea Pitch Owners.
However, the family have faced backlash from the head of the Chelsea Chicago Supporters Club, Brian Wolff, who posted a letter to Twitter on Monday opposing the Ricketts' potential takeover of Chelsea.
He wrote: "As the head of Chelsea Chicago Supporters Club, and the Chelsea Fans' Forum Overseas Representative, I've had a unique position hearing what supporters in Chicago and worldwide have said regarding the Ricketts family's bid for Chelsea. I can report the vast majority of opinion has been universal disdain.
"The Ricketts' political donations, fundraising and support for candidates who do not share the inclusive views of Chelsea Football Club and its supporters are wholly inconsistent with the 19 years of fantastic work done by the Club and the Chelsea Foundation, most notably as a leader in committing to a Living Wage and efforts to protect and promote equality for BAME and LGBTQ+ communities.
"Their ownership of the Chicago Cubs baseball and redevelopment of Wrigley Field raises serious doubts whether they will build upon the Club's success on the pitch, and also the continued existence of the Chelsea Pitch Owners and the goal to keep Chelsea Football Club playing at Stamford Bridge as our forever home.
"On behalf of countless supporters worldwide, I urge you to reject their bid for ownership of Chelsea Football Club in favour of others who will commit to not only building upon the last two decades of investment in players and infrastructure but equally important - the investment in supporters and the values which we hold dear.
"If not, I fear many Chelsea supporters WILL 'be booing in a year'."
The last line refers to an incident in January 2020 when Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was booed by fans as he unveiled a new network dedicated to the baseball club over what was seen as a lack of activity during the offseason.
The Ricketts family said in a statement if they are successful in their bid to buy Chelsea they will actively promote the values of diversity and inclusion.
"Our family rejects any form of hate in the strongest possible terms," a Ricketts family statement to Sky Sports News said.
"Racism and Islamophobia have no place whatsoever in our society. We have developed deep and abiding partnerships with the Muslim community in Chicago, as well as with all communities of colour.
"Respect for diversity and inclusion are central to our family's values. If we prevail in our bid for Chelsea, we commit to the club and to the fans that we will actively promote these values."
Former Chelsea winger Paul Canoville tweeted later on Tuesday he was against the Ricketts family owning the club, instead showing his support for the Chelsea Supporters Trust.
Meanwhile, Tom Ricketts also had a telephone conversation with Conservative MP for Chelsea Greg Hands on Monday before heading over to the UK.
The Ricketts family are one of several interested parties from America in the Chelsea bidding process. The Chicago Cubs owners are backed by billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who is the most valuable individual associated with Chelsea bidding process.
The family are joined in the race by a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly, with that group representing another American powerhouse in the race.
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
"The Ricketts family are facing backlash from some Chelsea supporters over leaked Islamophobic emails sent by the 80-year-old patriarch of the family Joe Ricketts between 2009 and 2013.
"Joe Ricketts has apologised for the emails which were published by the website Splinter News in 2019. He is not part of the bid for Chelsea and he is not involved with the Chicago Cubs.
"The Ricketts family bid for Chelsea is being led by his son Tom Ricketts. Two of his other children Laura and Todd are also involved.
"Todd Ricketts is the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a Republican Party donor and was nominated by Donald Trump to be the US Deputy Secretary of Commerce in November 2016.
"Laura Ricketts is a former corporate lawyer and Democratic Party donor who has campaigned for LGBTQ+ rights.
"Chelsea have several Muslim players such as N'Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger, Hakim Ziyech and Malang Sarr and millions of Muslim supporters around the world."
Nick Candy improved his British-led bid to buy Chelsea Football Club following the addition of another large international backer to his Blue Football Consortium.
Candy submitted a bid of over £2billion to The Raine Group last Friday but is now known to have increased this significantly after another large Korean financial institution joined his consortium over the weekend.
Proof of the additional funds has been sent to The Raine Group and is a huge boost to Candy's bid, which is highly tipped to be one of the few preferred bids to make the shortlist.
The shortlist is probably going to be two or three preferred bidders.
Candy also revealed on Monday he has held initial discussions with tech platform PrimaryBid, with a view to potentially considering a community enfranchisement model for Chelsea as he doubles down on his commitment to involve fans in the future of the club. The PrimaryBid platform would enable all stakeholders of Chelsea - including employees and fans - to have access to buy a stake in the club.
Candy commented: "This remains a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give football back to the fans and put them at the heart of the operations and strategy of Chelsea Football Club. We are committed to preserving the incredible legacy of the club and to promoting community involvement, and we can provide the financial stability to ensure the future growth of the club on the world stage."
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
"We already know that on Friday they put in a bid that was worth more than £2bn and they have now increased that bid, that is because they have managed to get in more investment into their consortium over the weekend.
"We already knew they were backed by two South Korean companies, Hana Financial Group and also C&P Sports Group, and over the weekend another South Korean financial institution has joined their consortium.
"Now earlier [on Monday] The Times reported another consortium had made a bid for Chelsea, this was a consortium headed by Centricus, who are an asset management company, they manage about £29bn worth of assets, they are based in the United Kingdom.
"They significantly have four bankers, hedge fund managers in the consortium who are all Chelsea season-ticket holders as well.
"What we're really seeing today is the race is heating up to make it onto the shortlist of the preferred bidders who will really have a chance of buying Chelsea."
A British-funded bid involving Chelsea season-ticket holders has revealed it is trying to buy the club.
London-based asset management firm Centricus have joined forces with hedge fund manager Jonathan Lourie of Cheyne Capital and Talis Capital's Bob Finch to submit a bid.
Lourie, Finch and Centricus' co-founder Nizar Al-Bassam and CEO Garth Ritchie are all season-ticket holders at Stamford Bridge. The group are hoping for a quick resolution to the situation to help Chelsea.
Al-Bassam told The Times: "There's a clock ticking because the club is bleeding money at a faster rate than it should while there's uncertainty there."
Roman Abramovich put the London club up for sale on March 2, amid Russia's continued invasion of Ukraine. The Russian-Israeli billionaire was then sanctioned by the UK Government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming to have proven the 55-year-old's direct links to Vladimir Putin.
American-backed bids from Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly and Chicago Cubs owners the Ricketts family are among the front-runners to take over.
Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Sebastian Coe have also offered a bid.
Meanwhile, the FA is to work with the government to ensure Chelsea fans can attend the FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace at Wembley in April.
A statement from the FA read: "We hope to have sell-out crowds at both of our Emirates FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley Stadium.
"This includes tickets for Chelsea supporters for their match against Crystal Palace, and we are working with the government on a method to achieve this whilst respecting the sanctions that are currently in place on Chelsea."
Earlier, the government had been urged to allow Chelsea fans access to FA Cup semi-final tickets, provided any proceeds go to the people of Ukraine.
Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, has called for changes to the special licence imposed upon the club after Abramovich was sanctioned.
The intention of the licence is to deny the club - and by extension Abramovich - the ability to generate new revenue, including from ticket sales.
Chelsea fans were unable to buy any tickets for the FA Cup quarter-final win at Middlesbrough beyond those purchased prior to the imposition of sanctions, but Knight insists a solution must be in place ahead of the semi-final against Palace.
"It is ridiculous that we face the prospect of a half-full Wembley for the Chelsea vs Palace FA Cup semi-final," Knight said before the FA released its statement.
"Chelsea is more than just its owner, it's a living organism with huge importance to its fans and community. It was understandable that, at short notice, last week's game against Middlesbrough went ahead without Chelsea fans but, with this much notice, the FA have no excuse for excluding them.
"The FA must be allowed to sell tickets to Chelsea fans so long as all money goes to the people of Ukraine."
Last Tuesday, Chelsea initially requested the match against Boro be played behind closed doors "for matters of sporting integrity" because of the inability to sell further tickets to travelling fans, but withdrew the request later the same day.
The club are currently unable to sell any new tickets in home sections of Stamford Bridge beyond those already sold, or sell tickets to visiting fans.
Unless the licence is changed, it means their Champions League quarter-final first leg at home to Real Madrid would be played behind closed doors.
Discussions between the government, the Premier League and the Football Association on ticketing are ongoing.