Jamie Carragher has criticized the statements from Chelsea and Roman Abramovich regarding the owner’s handing over of the stewardship of the club, saying they have “let themselves down badly”.
Abramovich announced on Saturday he was handing “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the club’s charitable foundation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The six foundation trustees have not yet agreed to run the club.
The initial 110-word statement from Abramovich did not mention Russia or Ukraine, a stance which was met by heavy criticism, before Chelsea released a short statement 14 hours later on Sunday morning, saying: “The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating. Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.”
speaking to Sky Sports prior to the Carabao Cup final at Wembley, Tuchel was asked if the statement reflected Abramovich’s view and said: “Absolutely it includes him and this reflects my opinion like everyone else’s opinion in the club.”
But Carragher has slammed Chelsea’s handling of the situation, saying “they’ve embarrassed themselves.”
“I don’t think they’ve handled it really well. With the couple of statements they’ve put out. I think it’s been really poor and they’ve let themselves down badly.
“The club came out today and put a statement out, but I think it was almost trying to rectify what Roman Abramovich had put out the night before. I don’t think they did that well either. It’s not worked out well for them at all, I think they’ve embarrassed themselves.”
Carragher also said that Abramovich’s handing over of stewardship and care falls short of handing over ownership, and claims the club should have been firmer in their stance from the start.
“They should have been a lot stronger in what they said, and regarding Roman Abramovich passing on to Chelsea trustees, that’s not him relinquishing the club, stewardship is not ownership.
“It’s completely different because he’s still in charge, he’s still running it, which is fine. But to not actually mention in his initial statement what was going on in Ukraine, I thought was really poor.”
Neville: More questions than answers
Fellow Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville described Abramovich’s statement as “meaningless”, saying: “It doesn’t have any strength behind it and the only question we want Roman Abramovich to answer, if he is going to speak, is ‘does he condemn the war or does he support the war on Ukraine?’
“I was surprised at Roman Abramovich, one of things he’s done well over that 20 years or so is not say anything. At the time when he has said something I think it’s left more questions than answers.”
Neville added: “I would have preferred Roman Abramovich to come out and say ‘I’m a Russian national, I own Chelsea Football Club and I will continue to own Chelsea Football club’.
“Chelsea charity trustees are not running the football club – executives and directors will [be] under the guidance of Roman Abramovich. So I don’t know why he thought, or those close to him thought it was going to wash. What he has done is try to use the charity as a shield, which I don’t think is impressive as a leader.”
Abramovich remains Chelsea’s owner and the Russian billionaire, who has invested over £1billion into the Stamford Bridge club since purchasing it in 2003, will not be asking the club to repay the loans it owes him – meaning the long-term future of the club remains secure.
It is also understood that Abramovich remains adamant that Chelsea is not for sale, although there are now questions about his long-term future at the club.
Whether Abramovich will ever return to taking a more visible hands-on role at the club will likely depend strongly on whether he faces any sanctions from the UK government, what happens in Ukraine and how the UK’s relationship with Russia develops.
There have been claims from MPs this week that Abramovich should not be allowed to own Chelsea due to his alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
After Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on Tuesday, Labor MP Chris Bryant told the House of Commons that the billionaire should have his assets seized, questioned whether he should be allowed to operate a football club himself and quoted a leaked government document suggesting he should not be allowed to be based in the UK.
What did Abramovich say?
In a rare statement from Abramovich on Saturday evening, the Chelsea owner said: “During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities.
“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.
“I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”
That statement was criticized for lacking clarity and for making no reference to Ukraine, Russia or Putin.