Chelsea

Chelsea: Why Roman Abramovich Has Been Good for English Football

Roman Abramovich has been a positive addition to the English game.
Roman Abramovich has been a positive addition to the English game.Ian Walton/Getty Images
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2013

Chelsea fans probably breathed a huge sigh of relief on Monday when rumors circulating on the Internet of Roman Abramovich's arrest by the FBI were proven to be nothing more than hearsay (per The Guardian).

Had they been true, the less composed supporters would have been thinking of financial meltdown, of their club in ruins with its owner sat behind bars as his business empire and football team crumbled around him.

It's a thought rival factions of the Blues would have no doubt had since the Russian took over the club in 2003. As news of Abramovich's apparent detainment hit Twitter feeds across the globe, they would have been rubbing their hands with the glee as they considered Chelsea's demise.

That scenario seems a far way off yet, but a Premier League without Abramovich should concern opposition fans as much as it should Chelsea.

According to some reports, Abramovich has spent over £2 billion during his decade of control in West London (via The Sun).

Of that sum, a vast amount has been spent on transfers, with a fair share going to English clubs. West Ham United, for instance, is a fine case in point.

With all the hype surrounding his purchase of the club, the first signing of the Abramovich era at Chelsea was rather low-key by contrast. Glen Johnson, a relative unknown at the time, arrived from West Ham for £6 million and weeks later was joined by teammate Joe Cole.

Factoring in the £6.6 million for Cole, the Hammers made a hefty £12.6 million for two players in the season they were relegated.

Without Abramovich on the scene, those transfers would not have happened and the Hammers would have missed out on significant finances needed to bolster their coffers in the Championship.

Indeed, over the following two seasons, West Ham were able to bring in the likes of Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Marlon Harewood and Dean Ashton for just over the sum received—players who helped them rise back up the leagues and, in the case of Ashton, maintain top-flight status.

Sure, Chelsea fans may have been enjoying marquee signings, but teams around them were also feeling the benefits, as more and more cash flowed into the Premier League at unprecedented levels.

The signing of Cole and Johnson in 2003 was followed by the arrival of Damien Duff for a then-record £17 million from Blackburn Rovers. That summer, the Lancashire-based club traded in their star asset for nearly an entire new team.

Among a host of signings made by Graeme Souness were Brett Emerton, Steven Reid, Barry Ferguson and John Stead—all for a combined £16.6 million. Significantly, as Rovers struggled to stave off relegation, it was Stead's six goals in 13 games in the second half of the campaign that saw them stay up.

It's not just about the Premier League, either. Signing Scott Parker for £10 million from Charlton Athletic in January 2004 allowed the Latics to buy Darren Bent for £2.5 million from Championship outfit Ipswich Town.

Abramovich's money has filtered down the divisions, and with the Blues signing youngsters such as Scott Sinclair (Bristol Rovers), Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo (both Leeds United) in the past, it is going much further than many have suspected.

Even in more recent times, Chelsea have splashed out £22 million on players from Bolton Wanderers (Gary Cahill and Nicolas Anelka) and a further £9 million to Wigan Athletic—clubs who thrive on such a cash injection.

The point is, say what you will about the ethics of Chelsea's transfer policy and how the club is perceived, Roman Abramovich's presence in England has been of benefit to far more clubs than just the one he owns.

Not only has he broken up the Arsenal-Manchester United dominance that was threatening to take hold, the Russian has injected wealth into football that has changed the game.

Chelsea fan or not, for that he must be applauded.

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