Chelsea set for ‘irreversible toxicity’ if warnings ignored, say fans

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 25: Chelsea Owner Todd Boehly & Director Behdad Eghbali look on prior to the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on February 25, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Chelsea chiefs have been accused of failing to address “serious supporter concerns” despite being warned they are heading for “irreversible toxicity” and possible fan protests.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust wrote to owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali earlier this month urging the club to explain their vision and engage more openly with the wider fanbase. 

The CST’s letter also highlighted a “disconnection felt by supporters towards the majority of the team, the manager, the club ownership and the board.”

Spectators at Stamford Bridge booed manager Mauricio Pochettino and forward Raheem Sterling on Sunday as Chelsea struggled to beat Leicester in the FA Cup.

Blues CEO Chris Jurasek responded this week, pledging to “engage with our supporters regularly” and provide “clear lines of communication and a significant level of transparency.” 

But CST chair Mark Meehan said it “doesn’t really address the issue we raised, which was about the club opening up to a wider group of fans in order to reassure and explain”.

“It would also be entirely in keeping with the club’s stated desire to be ‘leaders in fan engagement’,” added Meehan, who concluded “we are supporters – not customers.”

Chelsea finished outside the Premier League top 10 for the first time since 1996 last year, the first under Boehly’s consortium, and currently sit 11th despite spending £1bn on signings.

Pochettino and Sterling were booed by some Chelsea fans at the weekend
Pochettino and Sterling were booed by some Chelsea fans at the weekend

They reached last month’s Carabao Cup final and will return to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final in April, but sentiment towards former Tottenham boss Pochettino is lukewarm. 

In its initial letter, the CST said among fans “the mood is at its lowest since the early 1980s” due to results and a “lack of public facing vision”. 

The trust said fans were “close to, if not already experiencing, a shift that could result in irreversible toxicity” and that, without action, more booing and perhaps protests were likely.

It also highlighted a raft of price increases, to away games, coach travel, replica shirts and women’s matches, and said raising season tickets would be “extremely unwise”. 

Pochettino called for greater backing from Chelsea fans after the 4-2 win over Leicester, in which he was jeered for a substitution and Sterling booed for missing several chances. 

“They need to trust me to manage in the way I think is the best way for the club,” he said. “We need to respect their opinion as much as they need to respect my decision.”

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