Chelsea fans firmly responds to CTS letter with clear message

Chelsea fans firmly responds to CTS letter with clear message

A continued split between Chelsea fans firmly remains after the club’s Fan Advisory Board (FAB) issued a marked response to the supporters’ trust (CST) following a letter directed at the owners last week. New CEO Chris Jurasek responded to the original letter, but the feeling of disconnect and discontent remains.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST), in an emotional but damning plea towards Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, and the consortium that purchased the club from Roman Abramovich in May 2022, complained of “the current feeling amongst Chelsea supporters being “at its lowest since the early 1980s.” CST also warned of “irreversible toxicity, almost irrelevant of results on the pitch.”

However, the FAB, which was set up by Boehly-Clearlake to improve communications between supporters and the ownership, have hit back at the letter. Comprised of seven lifelong Blues fans, the reply states that they “don’t recognise the suggestion that fans are not being involved in the future of the Club,” as was claimed by the CST.

It adds, “This goes directly against our experience. So we wanted to set the record straight,” and “Chelsea’s FAB is a pioneering effort, created around a year ago, to ensure that the fan’s voice is listened to across the Club.”

The statement continues: “At Chelsea Football Club’s last main Board meeting (on March 11th), Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali directly (and in-person) asked the FAB to help shape the Club’s proposals in relation to ticketing and we have been working on exactly that. We have had multiple sessions with club executives to work through potential proposals and provided with data to help substantiate any potential changes.

“So whilst the precise content of these meetings must remain confidential, until any decisions and changes can be communicated with supporters, the idea that fans are not involved and not at a decision making level, could not be further from the truth.

“The club is aware that, while the FAB is constructive and understands the realities, we are also challenging. We make our views known forcefully. We achieve real change. We work and will continue to work on the relationship. We are helped by two other enhancements to fan engagement.”

It adds: “The Club is doing much more work to survey a significant cross-section of the fanbase’s opinion. And sharing this work with the FAB. So far what we have learned has been well aligned with the advice we have been offering.

“Second, significantly more resources have been allocated to fan liaison than at any point in the club’s history. Before the FAB was created there was one part-time employee devoted to supporter liaison. There is now a department which will number four full-time members of staff. Contrary to what has been suggested, these facts give a full and proper picture of what is going on.

“Finally, we would like to add this. Chelsea’s men’s team is part way through a season with much to play for. We will soon return to Wembley. We want to rise up the table, with the European places in touching distances. We have exciting young players with real green shoots of improvement in the men’s first team following significant investment. In addition, our Women’s team continues to thrive domestically and on the European stage in Emma Hayes’ final season.

“Football is a matter of opinion and expressing emotion is part of that. But we have to get behind our team and make our contribution to victory rather than seek chaos and division through attacks and campaigns.

“Every Chelsea fan (including the ownership group) is frustrated at setbacks or results that don’t go our way. But the team and the Club more broadly needs its supporters. The only people who benefit from Chelsea fans turning on Chelsea are fans of other clubs. If we’re pulling in the same direction then ‘every little thing gonna be alright’.”

It comes during a period of immense turmoil for many involved with the club. Chelsea are currently 11th in the Premier League after finishing 12th last year, a huge drop from the finish under Thomas Tuchel in the last season of Abramovich’s tenure. There has also been a major change in staffing across the club, from players and coaches to physios, media appointments, groundsmen, and more.

Chelsea’s transfer strategy has also been criticised, with increasing prices on a matchday only further enhancing the ill-feeling. CST addressed these problems last week, saying, “While this [disconnect] may be expected with our current run of form and position in the league table, a significant number of supporters that we speak to are quick to express concerns that the lack of any public-facing vision from the new ownership has led to an overwhelming sense of helplessness, frustration, and deep concern.

“Supporters are saying that there currently seems a fast-growing lack of trust from much of the fanbase, especially matchgoers towards the board, partially due to severely limited communication. Many supporters have significant concerns about the short and long-term future of our football club.”

They added: “When you began your stewardship of Chelsea FC, you communicated to supporters that you would look to grow every commercial revenue stream and double the income to bring us in line with other major Premier League clubs. We were informed that only once all commercial revenue streams were exhausted would the club hit the pockets of the supporters.

“Supporters are frustrated and angry that this pledge has been broken. Since May 2023, a number of public-facing supporter budgets have been cut or tightened, and prices increased.”

It explained: “The UK currently faces one of the most difficult financial periods in its history. It is important thatyou are aware that the cost-of-living crisis has created huge financial difficulties for many people and matchgoing supporters, the lifeblood of the club, are certainly not immune from these pressures.

“You should be under no illusions of how concerned many supporters are about the potential of significant ticket price increases. A CST membership survey received responses from thousands of supporters, a significant number of whom are fearful that they will be priced out of watching the club they love by above-inflation increases.

“We believe that any significant ticketing price increase at this time would be extremely unwise and, that all other ideas around price points or changes to senior concessions should be considered at a later date.

“This belief seems especially pertinent given the record-breaking expenditure on players that has produced a far from positive impact on the pitch. We are very aware that the increase in ticket prices will only add to the ‘penny pinching’ narrative and we have obvious and real concerns about how supporters would react to this combination of increased prices and mediocre, inconsistent performances on the pitch. We would strongly caution against such a move.”

The supporter engagement issues came to a head with the CST writing, “We believe that we are at a stage where a new wider supporter engagement approach needs to be urgently adopted to address the serious concerns held by supporters who have demonstrated such loyalty over recent years.”

There were calls for a, “coherent, detailed strategy update from the ownership on their medium/long-term plans,” with, “deep concern, and cynicism, about what is happening,” due to, “the absence of any supporter update whatsoever, rumours, some doubtless spectacularly inaccurate, are abound.”

They cite other clubs such as Brighton and Brentford as pillars for interaction, stating that those sides have achieved positive relationships by, “being open to the wider supporter base about the wider business objectives,” and that equivalent measures could, “buy time for the leadership of a club where they are making significant changes quickly.”

Jurasek, who was appointed by Chelsea last year, responded, reaffirming the position that, “Our goal is the same as your goal: to ensure Chelsea Football Club has a bright and successful future.” He added: “Part of achieving that goal will be done by working with our supporters.

“Without question, we want to ensure we engage with our supporters regularly to provide them with clear lines of communication and a significant level of transparency. With the establishment of the Fan Advisory Board, who liaise with the Club on a regular basis, we are confident that there is a great deal of shared discussion and an intention to work closely with a number of key stakeholders.

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