BILLIONAIRE owner Roman Abramovich has reiterated his commitment to Chelsea.
His visa problems and inability to watch live games, plus the delay on proposed plans to demolish and rebuild the stadium – at an estimated personal cost of £1BILLION – had lead to speculation that he could be preparing to walk away.
It is believed Abramovich has was watched just three live games – Chelsea’s Europa League final against Arsenal in 2019, a friendly against RB Salzburg a month later and the win over Krasnodar last October – since leaving London for Israel in April 2018.
The 54-year-old said: “The ambitions are as true now as they were when I first became owner and I hope that can be seen through the work we have been doing on and off the pitch over the last 17 years.
“Chelsea has a very rich history, and I feel extremely fortunate to play a part in that.
“The club was here before me, and will be here after me, but my job is to ensure we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future.
“That’s why the success of our academy at Cobham [training ground] is so important to me.”
Unlike some not-so-popular owners of rival clubs, Abramovich also believes “football is not just a business opportunity.”
He added: “Football is a community sport. Chelsea is a community. We need to embrace all of that community in the work that we do, the investments that we do, and the work that we focus on.
“Chelsea is not just the men’s first team.”
The Blues earned rave reviews during the pandemic for the willingness and speed with which they acted to help their staff and people in their local area.
During the first lockdown, when football was shutdown and other clubs were making staff redundant, Chelsea continued to pay all staff as if matches were being played, offered free meals and accommodation to local NHS staff and provided online programmes for the youth and the elderly.
They also partnered with domestic violence charity Refuge to raise awareness and funds – with more than £600,000 being raised by fans.
Abramovich said: “It was quite clear from the start that we wanted to help… Chelsea is a part of the community and should of course play a role in contributing and helping, in the ways we can.
“I hope the projects we supported as a club played a role in helping and I am grateful to all the fans who also lent their support to the various club-led initiatives during the pandemic.”
He also remains passionate about eradicating racism and anti-semitism.
“This is all the same type of evil and should have no place on our world at this day and age,” he says.
Elsewhere, the Chelsea owner defended his record for sacking managers, with Thomas Tuchel the 15th different Blues boss since he arrived in 2003.