Abramovich in for long haul rather than short-term glory

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The Independent Online

However sunny the outlook there is always a doubting voice, one who expects a cloud to darken the brightest horizon. So it is with Chelsea where, understandably given the club's recent history, there are those who fear Roman Abramovich's Chelski revolution will end in tears.

However sunny the outlook there is always a doubting voice, one who expects a cloud to darken the brightest horizon. So it is with Chelsea where, understandably given the club's recent history, there are those who fear Roman Abramovich's Chelski revolution will end in tears.

Either he will lose interest or he will suffer misfortune. He does, after all, require a bodyguard, has seen a former business partner arrested by Vladimir Putin, and is controlling a club which not so long ago lost a significant investor, Matthew Harding, to a helicopter crash.

Peter Kenyon, the club's newish chief executive, yesterday moved to quell such fears. Abramovich, he said, is bubbling with enthusiasm and in it for the long term. Moreover the intention was for the club to become financially secure independent of the Russian's billions.

Chelsea, he said, may be owned by one man but "there is a responsibility to run it in a financially sound manner".

Kenyon added: "Nobody wants a Leeds experience. That's not good for the club or the game. It's our job to make sure Chelsea are successful and healthy in the long term. Financially Chelsea are already much more secure than before and that is a positive thing. Ultimately he wants the club to be able to do without a sugar daddy.

"Roman is very committed to rebuilding Chelsea in the medium and long term. What sets him apart is that most people spend their money acquiring a club, very few have then spent the same again improving it on the field. You don't do that unless you are committed long-term and emotional about the product."

The "emotional" reference underlines how involved Abramovich has become in Chelsea. Kenyon, to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davis, "would say that" but the statistics are impressive. Despite his significant other commitments, in Sibneft, his oil firm, and Chukotka, the Siberian province of which he is governor, Abramovich has seen 44 of Chelsea's 46 matches, missing only fixtures in Zilina and Scarborough.

"Football clubs give you feedback very quickly and the experience is very positive for him," added Kenyon, thinking perhaps of Stamford Bridge dancing to "Kalinka", the Russian folk song which is now Chelsea's pre-match anthem, and fans festooned with Cossack-style headwear.

"There is a really good feeling around Chelsea." he said. "You talk to supporters and they will tell you going there is a really exciting experience. He's added to that. He has a vision about the way he wants Chelsea to play. It is not just about Chelsea winning, it is about winning with style and good football. He understands from a fan's perspective that we all want to romance about the fifth goal going in from 30 yards out."

Abramovich, said Kenyon, was not just spending on headline acts. There would be investment in training and other back-up facilities. "It is our job to build a long-term sustainable football club but everybody is conscious it takes time."

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