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Todd Boehly’s vision for Chelsea? Shiny spectacle and cruel gain | Chelsea

A The billionaire completed a spectacular takeover of one of the world’s most prized sports institutions and immediately went into jaw-dropping lavish shopping. The new signings pile up like gifts under the Christmas tree. Debt soared into the hundreds of millions, drawing the anger and jealousy of their competitors. But in his own way, he succeeded: success was deservedly bought, people were pacified, the sport gently bowed to his whims.

This is the story of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team under Todd Boehly and his business partners and, for all the sense of disaster and upheaval surrounding Chelsea lately, what stands out most of all is what hasn’t changed. Results on the pitch have been largely preserved: the same players and the same coaches playing more or less the same level of football in front of roughly the same people. Third place and next season’s Champions League football are secured. And now one ambitious tycoon has been replaced by another.

It’s easy to forget, amid all the familiar mood music, the unspeakable strangeness of the events that have brought us to this point. The systematic killing of Ukrainians has been largely forgotten, or at least internalized, by the game in general. Should we talk about the lessons football can learn from its penchant for a man accused by the British government of having “the blood of the Ukrainian people on his hands”? Or shall we talk about what all this means for Romelu Lukaku’s future? Football has long had an unparalleled talent for extracting the serious from the trivial, and the last few weeks have proven that the opposite may also be true.

We have also seen this in some of the early press coverage of Boehly’s arrival in London. Look, he stopped to take a selfie with some fans! Look, he’s wearing a hoodie and jeans like a normal person! There may be a legitimate point of difference here with the reclusive and untouchable Roman Abramovich, the sincere hope among Chelsea fans that this possession can offer more of a recognizable human face. But together, let’s remember what’s important and what’s not.

Mike Ashley is wearing a Newcastle shirt and drinking beer in the stands. Michael Knighton standing on the Old Trafford pitch juggling the ball. The Venkys promised to bring Ronaldinho to Blackburn Rovers. Neither of these is a reliable sign of anything. If you can afford a Premier League football club, let’s assume you can afford to hire a PR firm too.

So, amid all the smoke and misdirection, what can we realistically expect from Boehly’s Chelsea? The prevailing view seems to be that Chelsea will be run along the lines of the Dodgers, who over the last decade have gone from extravagant underachievers to one of the sport’s pre-eminent forces and – to some extent – its biggest spender.

Todd Boehly took his place in the directors box before kick-off. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images

In the first four years under the ownership of Guggenheim – the management company of which Boehly is president – ​​the Dodgers spent $1 billion buying new players. The audience began to gradually increase. In 2020, the Dodgers finally ended their 32 year wait for a World Series win.

If the details of the Dodgers takeover framework have some similarities to Abramovich’s arrival at Chelsea in 2003, then a closer examination also reveals some differences. The Dodgers in 2012 were an organization that failed miserably, marked not only by mismanagement and apathy, but also a sense of extravagance. There are plenty of low-hanging fruit to pick; income streams that are easy to tap.

But Chelsea won’t be allowed to sell their own broadcast rights, as the Dodgers did in a stunning £6.8bn deal with Time Warner to create their own dedicated channel. They don’t own much land around Stamford Bridge, limiting the possibility of expansion and rebuilding. The scouting and youth development structures – significantly improved under the Guggenheim – are already well-funded and largely profitable. Of course there are inefficiencies – coughSaúl íguez earns £200,000 a week – but as an organization Chelsea in 2022 are starting from a much higher base, raising open questions about what success will actually look like.

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This is where we come to the other side of Boehly’s masterplan: a good circle of investment and income generation that will suit Chelsea fans, as long as they don’t mind making a lot of the investment themselves. Success comes at a heavy price for Dodgers supporters: the cheapest season tickets at the Dodger Stadium now cost £1,400, four times more than they did a decade ago. The most expensive was over £13,000, up almost 150%.

Parking prices have increased at the same rate. A portion of fries in a plastic baseball helmet will cost you £8. And while the 2013 Time Warner deal was a clear win to its core, it essentially excluded the 50% of southern California’s population who couldn’t receive new channels until 2020.

This, perhaps, is the real theme of Boehly’s vision for elite sport: as premium consumer entertainment, cool products are served with a warm feeling. Of course Chelsea fans are important in all of this: after all, you are a co-investor, a partner in this crazy company. You will travel with him. He promises you thrills, luxurious hospitality, front row seats for the biggest show in the world. Meanwhile, he’ll hand you over to Dana, who will take your direct debit credentials and give you more details about exciting new products in the CFC metaverse.

In a way, this is the main difference between the Abramovich and Boehly eras. For Chelsea fans, the Abramovich years were a sugar-coated dreamland, a contest galore whose surrealism stems from the fact that no one can really figure out why all this happened.

Protection? Political? Prestige? Pure vibes? Boehly, on the other hand, is a creature of pure trading, green and red arrows, 10 year charts and results. You can cheer him up through the front door or you can turn around. But at least no one can say they weren’t warned.

Todd Boehly’s vision for Chelsea? Shiny spectacle and cruel gain | Chelsea

Source link Todd Boehly’s vision for Chelsea? Shiny spectacle and cruel gain | Chelsea

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