Tom Ricketts has declared an “absolute commitment” to diversity and inclusion in his family’s bid to buy Chelsea.
The Chicago Cubs co-chairman has responded directly to supporter unrest over the Ricketts family’s attempt to purchase the club.
Supporters organized a protest at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, while the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust had earlier revealed a lack of confidence in the Ricketts family’s candidacy to buy the Blues from Roman Abramovich.
Tom Ricketts confirmed meetings with Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, and pledged to sit down with more fans in a bid to prove his family’s suitability to take over at the west London club.
“Over the past fortnight, our bid team has met with several supporter groups to explain our vision for Chelsea Football Club,” said Tom Ricketts.
“In those meetings, and by letter to all groups, we have shared a set of specific commitments we will make to fans, if our bid is successful.
“We believe these are far-reaching and certainly include an absolute commitment on the part of the Ricketts family and the bid team to put diversity and inclusion at the heart of the club.
“We look forward to more meetings – including with the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust – over the coming days and to making a public reiteration of our values and commitments.”
The CST issued a statement on Saturday, insisting its membership “neither supports nor has confidence in” the Ricketts family’s bid.
The influential Chelsea fan group conducted a snap survey of members, with 77 per cent of those polled claiming not to support their offer.
The Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts are among the final four bidders aiming to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.
Cubs chiefs and siblings Tom and Laura Ricketts front the family’s candidacy to take over, but Chelsea fans organized a protest against them before Saturday’s Premier League clash with Brentford at Stamford Bridge.
Father Joe Ricketts, who has no role at the Cubs or in the bid to buy Chelsea, branded Muslims “my enemy” in leaked emails from 2019.
Chelsea fans have voiced concerns consistently on social media, and now the CST has added further weight to those worries.
“At present, it is clear that our membership neither supports nor has confidence in the Ricketts family’s bid for the club,” read a CST statement.
“This is reflective of wider concerns articulated by large, vocal sections of Chelsea’s supporter base.
“The CST Board is guided by our membership, and thus we do not currently believe it is in the best interests of our members for the Ricketts family’s bid to succeed.
“We await further public detail from the Ricketts family on concrete steps they will take to address the well-documented concerns of Chelsea supporters.
“Should the Ricketts publicly set out clear and detailed plans on how they will address support concerns, we may survey our members again in the next week.”
Tom Ricketts has built bridges with the Muslim community in Chicago ever since his father’s 2019 comments, and continues to apologize on his behalf.
The Ricketts have been adding advisory partners to fine-tune their bid ahead of the April 11 deadline for improved offers, but their proposal is understood to be funded entirely by cash.
Hedge fund supremo Ken Griffin has added his significant personal financial clout behind the Ricketts’ bid.
Blues supporters continue to raise fears over the Ricketts’ candidacy to buy the club, however, with those issues crystallized in the CST survey.
“Last week, the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust stated that the Ricketts family must urgently and publicly address supporter concerns – especially with regard to inclusivity, given both past and recent statements by members of the family,” read the CST statement.
“We also committed to surveying our members as to their confidence and support in the Ricketts family’s bid for Chelsea FC.
“Yesterday we conducted a snap survey of our membership. We asked our membership whether, based on information in the public domain as of April 1, they had confidence that the Ricketts family would run an inclusive and successful club, and we asked whether they supported the Ricketts family’s bid.
“Our members have given a clear message in this regard: 72 per cent of those who responded do not currently have confidence that the Ricketts family would run an inclusive and successful club, with five per cent of respondents believing they would.
“Similarly, 77 per cent of members who responded do not support the Ricketts family’s bid for Chelsea FC and three per cent of respondents are in support.
“It is essential that the new owners of Chelsea FC have the confidence of the supporter base and demonstrate an understanding of the values that we stand for.”
Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2, amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.
The 55-year-old was then sanctioned by the UK Government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming to have proven his links to Vladimir Putin.
Chelsea have been granted a special Government license to continue operating, though under strict terms.
Abramovich cannot profit from Chelsea’s sale, but he had already vowed to write off the club’s £1.5billion debt.
LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly and British business titan Jonathan Goldstein, Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Sebastian Coe, the Ricketts family and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca are the four remaining contenders.