Don’t play politics – Paul Canoville demands Chelsea are sold ‘without delay’

The club’s first black player has revealed there is a state of alarm at Stamford Bridge.

Nick Purewal
Friday 11 March 2022 17:50 GMT
Paul Canoville has urged the UK Government not to “play politics” with Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)
Paul Canoville has urged the UK Government not to “play politics” with Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

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Paul Canoville has urged the UK Government not to “play politics” with Chelsea but instead to oversee a quick change of ownership at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s first black player has revealed there is a state of alarm at the west London club, with some staff fearing for their jobs.

Owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the Government on Thursday as the Conservatives claim to have proven the Russian-Israeli billionaire has links to Vladimir Putin.

Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK Government, with all his UK assets barring Chelsea frozen (Rebecca Naden/PA)
Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK Government, with all his UK assets barring Chelsea frozen (Rebecca Naden/PA) (PA Wire)

Abramovich had put Chelsea up for sale on March 2 amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine, but Thursday’s government sanctions have stalled that process.

While Abramovich’s other UK assets are frozen Chelsea can still operate under special licence, but Canoville is worried the current limbo could drag on.

Chelsea will continue negotiations with the Government over the current operating licence, with Blues bosses and Conservative chiefs understood to be hopeful of striking eventual consensus on a range of amendments to ease the club’s situation.

The 60-year-old former Blues winger denounced Putin’s war in Ukraine, before issuing an impassioned plea for his old club’s future.

“My heart sank when I woke to the headlines of Chelsea being compromised by the Government due to the owner being sanctioned,” Canoville told the PA news agency.

“I think that every sane and rational human being is entirely opposed to the war Putin is raging in Ukraine. It is depraved and I thoroughly condemn it.

“If, as the Government is claiming, Roman Abramovich is associated with Putin then I wholeheartedly agree with his being sanctioned and being made to forfeit ownership of my football club.

I have been speaking to members of the Chelsea Foundation staff who are in tears and are desperate to know what is going on

Paul Canoville

“Sadly though the way they have gone about it has not only put the club itself in danger of collapsing as sponsors run away, they are also putting many employees at risk of losing their livelihoods through no fault whatsoever of their own, and also the work of the academy and Chelsea Foundation supporting thousands of young people.

“I have been speaking to members of the Chelsea Foundation staff who are in tears and are desperate to know what is going on.

“I am asking that the Government do not play politics with my football club and allow new buyers to take over the club without delay.

“I think this is politics, and I think that’s wrong, totally wrong.

“I am sure the Government would have realised this was going to happen. While the news pages and TV stations are 24/7 Chelsea we are not hearing so much about the Government’s disregard for Ukrainian refugees. Nothing surprises me about this.”

Canoville was racially abused by his own fans when he made his Chelsea debut away at Crystal Palace in 1982.

The talented winger impressed at Chelsea between 1981 and 1986 but a difficult exit led ultimately to battles with drug addiction.

Canoville in his playing days with Chelsea (PA)
Canoville in his playing days with Chelsea (PA) (PA Archive)

Canoville has however emerged from those tribulations, as well as a number of serious cancer illnesses, to thrive as an anti-racism campaigner, with his foundation continuing to change young lives across London.

And now he is keen to see Chelsea continue their strong community work, especially with hopes high that new ownership will soon be in place.

“Since I made my debut for the club back in 1982, Chelsea has become a centre of excellence for achievements of black players,” said Canoville. “I would say it is unequalled on the global stage for black players winning major awards.

“This is why I was so proud when the club named a corporate suite after me.

“It is not just about me, it is dedicated to all the great players that followed me into the club like Paul Elliot, Marcel Desailly, Claude Makelele, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and N’Golo Kante. Just look at the players coming through the academy now.

“I was at Downing Street recently alongside the new chief executive of the PFA among others for a reception for the Hope Collective which I am an ambassador for.

“I was complimented for my anti-racism work. I hope I can be allowed to continue my work and that Chelsea can again be allowed to support youth work and campaigning.”

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