It's time to stop the 'small club' jibes after Chelsea signed £200m Yokohama deal

COMMENT: The Blues may have reached the football elite thanks to Roman Abramovich, but they're now there to stay

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The Independent Football

For years Chelsea fans have been mocked for supporting a 'small club' who got lucky because a billionaire took an interest.

Supporters of traditionally 'big clubs' (Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and so on) have looked down at the west London club who, according to them, would not be perennial contenders at home and in Europe were it not for Roman Abramovich.

Without the rouble the likes of Jose Mourinho, Didier Drogba and the new crop of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas may never have come to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge for the first time back in 2003

This is probably true, Chelsea were never going to be title contenders before Abramovich, but they were never a 'small club', whatever way you define such things, either.

In the immediate years before the arrival of Abramovich the Blues had just qualified for the Champions League for the second time, had a good history of success in the FA Cup and the League Cup and had won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1998.

Their history wasn't as marked as others but it was there, it's not as if he took a semi-pro side and made them champions of England.

Of course, branding Chelsea a small club with no history are both perfectly reasonable digs. Friendly banter between rival fans is part and parcel of the game that should be encouraged - as long as it's not offensive - the reason a lot of us love football is because of the atmosphere and rivalry between clubs and fans.

But the massive sponsorship deal that Chelsea announced with Yokohoma Rubber on Thursday night means calling Chelsea a small club with no history now holds a lot less water.

The five-year, £40million-a-year deal is only beaten in the Premier League by Manchester United's mega-deal with Chevrolet, worth £53m-a-year.

Arsenal's current deal with Chevrolet, until the end of the 2018-19 season, is worth £30m-a-year, while the Liverpool deal with Standard Chartered is reported to be worth about £20m-a-year, as is Manchester City's with Etihad.

It's more lucrative than kit deals currently held by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Chelsea are now a global sports brand with fans supporters in every continent - the club claims they have more than 500 million fans worldwide (though it is hard to define such a figure).

They command huge crowds wherever they travel and replica shirts can be seen in various countries around the world. Visit Stamford Bridge and you will hear a variety of languages among the home fans.Yokohama are a massive corporation that are willing to sink a fortune into the continued success of the club - the Japanese firm employ more than 20,000 people in 120 countries. They would not have been willing to pay such an amount to put their name on Chelsea shirts if they did not believe the club were truly global players.

If Chelsea win a fifth English title this season only six clubs would have won more and among those are Sunderland and Aston Villa - would those two clubs swap their 'bigger' history for Chelsea's current and likely future success?

Four of those would have come after the Abramovich revolution, but with foreign ownership now rife in English football (11 out of 20 clubs in the Premier League, 14 out of 24 clubs in the Championship are foreign-owned) with some clubs in a much worse state than they were before, perhaps Chelsea are just lucky they got an owner wealthy enough and interested enough to truly change the club.

This sponsorship, as well as the club's continued success on the pitch and savvy when selling players means Chelsea posted a record profit of £20m in November and a record turnover of £325m to the year ending June 2014.

Chelsea passed Financial Fair Play and are planning to expand Stamford Bridge to a 60,000 capacity - they are at the point where they can cope without Abramovich's money.

Despite all this, the digs at the Blues will remain, and so they should.

It's all just a bit of fun anyway.