Roman Abramovich discusses football in society and ambition remaining the same

Roman Abramovich has shared thoughts publicly on some important topics concerning Chelsea, football and wider society, including combating discrimination, having a performance-based culture and investing in the women’s game.

The Chelsea owner was in conversation with Lee Igel, a clinical professor at the NYU Tisch Institute for Global Sport who has contributed to Chelsea FC projects, and used our Say No to Antisemitism campaign to form part of the teaching at his Institute.

The discussion is published in Forbes magazine and it begins with Mr Abramovich recalling why he fell in love with football, and that his aims at the outset of his ownership were to create world-class teams as well as ensure the club plays a positive role in all of our communities.

The progress made on those objectives since 2003 is then discussed at length including, in the wake of this week’s launch of the club’s new No To Hate campaign, the continuing work to combat racist abuse, especially in the wake of players being targeted on social media.

‘Racism, antisemitism, this is all the same type of evil and should have no place on our world at this day and age,’ he tells Igel.

‘Every time I get sent examples of racist abuse that our players face, I am shocked. It’s disgraceful that this is the reality for not just our players, but for anyone targeted by this sort of abuse. If we as a club can make a difference in this area, in fighting antisemitism, racism and promoting tolerance, I am determined to stand behind it and contribute in whatever way I can.’

Mr Abramovich discusses why, despite no wish to have a public profile, he chooses on occasions to put his name to statements or letters on this subject and others, including when Frank Lampard left the club.

‘I think we are pragmatic in our choices,’ he says. ‘And we are comfortable making the right changes at the right time to ensure we can achieve our long-term ambitions. I hope it also says something about the clarity of the long-term ambition of the club. Those who join understand the objectives both on the pitch, as well as the wider positive role the club plays in the community.’

The success of Chelsea FC Women and the Academy sides, as well as the men’s team, are clearly a source of pride for the owner and he states his belief that the women’s game would be on an equal business footing to the men’s if given equal support.

‘The women’s team is a critical part of Chelsea and shapes who we are as a club,’ Mr Abramovich says.

‘I think investment pays off. I think their success demonstrates what can be achieved when you dedicate resources and the right leadership. Emma Hayes has been remarkable in her work with the team.’

The Chelsea Foundation, the largest in UK football, and the support Chelsea and Mr Abramovich have offered to the National Health Service, the charity Refuge and the wider community during the pandemic are also highlighted in the conversation in Forbes, which can be read in full here.