Chelsea’s first black player Paul Canoville met Tom Ricketts over racism issues

Ricketts’ family are hoping to buy Chelsea

Nick Purewal
Tuesday 29 March 2022 17:19
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Paul Canoville, pictured, grilled Tom Ricketts on his candidacy to buy Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)
Paul Canoville, pictured, grilled Tom Ricketts on his candidacy to buy Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

Paul Canoville, Chelsea’s first black player, gave potential Blues buyer Tom Ricketts a “severe grilling” on his family’s historic racism issues.

Ricketts asked to meet with Canoville and apologised for his father Joe branding Muslims “my enemy” in leaked emails from 2019.

Canoville was left impressed by Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts’ determination to build inclusion and diversity programs should his bid to buy Chelsea prove successful.

Gary Trowsdale, a patron of the Paul Canoville Foundation, attended the meeting at Stamford Bridge last week, and explained how the American earned their respect amid a candid discussion.

Canoville now hopes to meet personally with Chelsea’s other shortlisted bidders, as the club’s sale process accelerates.

Tom Ricketts branded his father’s comments in those leaked emails “abhorrent”, before explaining the Cubs’ community outreach programs – then even moving into their proposals to redevelop Stamford Bridge.

“Paul gave Tom Ricketts a severe grilling, and Tom Ricketts apologised to him for those comments that had been made by his relatives,” Trowsdale told the PA news agency.

Chelsea are up for sale (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Paul was very forthright, he told them the reason he tweeted and supported the No To Ricketts campaign was because of what he’d read and seen on social media, that Tom Ricketts’ family had been responsible for.

“Tom Ricketts said he wouldn’t try to hide from those comments, that they weren’t his values, that they were abhorrent; and he apologised.

“He explained that they are very, very keen to take the football club on, and they know they must win round the fans, and also win round Paul.

“That set the tone for the meeting. I don’t think there’s much more he could have done quite frankly, in terms of talking to Paul.

“And as a result of that Paul then just wanted to hear what he had to say about investing in anti-racism, in campaigns, making sure he had very strong diversity and inclusion policies built into the ongoing development of the club.

We were impressed that he'd want to sit down with Paul, have that conversation and apologise himself for those comments that were made.

Gary Trowsdale

“And he answered all those questions competently and professionally. So I’d say in that respect, we were impressed with what we heard.

“But more importantly, we were impressed that he’d want to sit down with Paul, have that conversation and apologise himself for those comments that were made. He didn’t make those comments himself, but he was still sitting there apologising for them.

“Tom Ricketts showed Paul total respect, it was Tom Ricketts who asked to see Paul.

“Ultimately Paul wasn’t swayed in any which way. He made it clear he supported the views of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust and he’d continue to do so.

“But he did feel Tom Ricketts should be given the opportunity now he’s been shortlisted to put forward the best possible bid.

“And why wouldn’t any right-minded Chelsea fan see that as being the next course of action?”

The Ricketts family are among the final four bidders to buy Chelsea, with Roman Abramovich selling the club after 19 years at the helm.

The Russian-Israeli billionaire put the Blues up for sale on March 2, amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK Government on March 10, with Chelsea now operating under a strict Downing Street licence.

Roman Abramovich, pictured, will sell Chelsea after 19 years at the Stamford Bridge helm (Adam Davy/PA)

The 55-year-old cannot profit from Chelsea’s sale, but has pledged to write off the club’s £1.5billion debt.

Canoville was racially abused by Chelsea fans on his Blues debut in April 1982, and has beaten addiction issues as well as three bouts of cancer in later life.

The 60-year-old now has a suite named in his honour at Stamford Bridge, and is a prominent anti-racism and youth opportunities campaigner.

Trowsdale continues to advise Canoville and his foundation, having spent a long prior stint as chief executive of the Damilola Taylor Trust and also worked as a special advisor to Parliament.

Chelsea fans have objected to the Ricketts’ bid on social media, but Canoville and Trowsdale believe the Chicago Cubs owners should now have the chance to state their case to take the Stamford Bridge helm.

“I know quite a lot about community work in Chicago, and Tom Ricketts talked about how they created outreach programs at the Cubs around the four corners of the city, and he spoke passionately about it.

“He was quite impressive in what he had to say.

“He stressed very heavily that they would invest more in the Chelsea Foundation but also in developing further community outreach programmes.

“And he realised one of the things they needed to do was to build bridges with the Muslim community in London.

Paul Canoville, pictured, in his playing days for Chelsea (PA)

“He also talked very impressively about their plans for the ground, and how they felt they would be best equipped to pull that rebuild off.

“And just in case any fans there are now thinking to disrespect Paul because he’s had a meeting, what they should realise is that Paul walks to the ground and is regularly stopped by people who admit to him that they were part of that hooligan front that used to boo him back in the day.

“And they tell him how they regret their actions, they’ve turned their lives around and that they’d never want their kids or grand kids to act the way they used to act.

“And they apologise to him, and he’s had that happen many, many times.

“Paul is a pioneer, he’s a game changer. Chelsea fans should respect the fact Tom Ricketts asked to see him and put his case to him.”

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