The Ricketts' family have been shortlisted among the preferred buyers for Chelsea even after their candidacy came under criticism from the Blues' supporters trust, who stated on Friday that they still hold doubts over the prospective owners ability to run an "inclusive, successful club".
The Chicago Cubs' owners are among the contenders to secure Chelsea, who are expected to fetch a price in excess of $3billion, but may yet find themselves lagging behind the two leading consortia, one led by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Todd Boehly and the other spearheaded by Martin Broughton and Sebastian Coe. The latter, CBS Sports revealed last week, has the financial backing of Josh Harris and David Blitzer behind them.
Chelsea supporters have carried out a sustained #NoToRicketts campaign on social media after historical racist comments made by Joe Ricketts in 2018 came to light. He has since apologized for them and the bid has attempted to build bridges with fans this week, including through talks with the Chelsea Supporters' Trust (CST). Those did not, however, have the desired outcome for the family.
"The first and most important purpose of the CST is to represent the interests of our members, and Chelsea supporters," a statement from the trust read. "It is important to clarify that the decision on who the successful bidder is will be made by Chelsea FC, Raine Group and the UK Government. The CST has no legal role or direct say in this decision.
"However, we must be prepared for all eventualities. It is essential that the new owners of the club has the confidence of the supporter base and demonstrate an understanding of the values that we stand for. That is why the strength of feeling towards the Ricketts family bid from Chelsea supporters cannot and must not be ignored.
"The CST are grateful to the Ricketts family for meeting with us this week. We challenged them on all of the points supporters have raised concerns about. However, our concerns about their ability to run an inclusive, successful club on behalf of our diverse supporter base around the world have not yet been allayed.
"It is for the Ricketts family to demonstrate how they will address supporter concerns – especially with regard to inclusivity, given both past and recent statements by members of the family, and they have not yet done that. They must do so publicly and they must do so urgently. If they are unable to do this and gain the confidence of Chelsea supporters, the CST Board does not believe it would be in the best interests of our members and Chelsea supporters for their bid to succeed."
In response Tom Ricketts said: "My family and I are very grateful to all of the fans and supporters' groups who took time to meet with us this week and share their passion and concerns for Chelsea Football Club. It's clear you have nothing but the best interests of the club at heart.
"We have listened to all of your feedback -- including from the Chelsea Supporters' Trust -- and are grateful that the door is still open for us to demonstrate our commitment to working with fans to protect the club's heritage. It is now up to us to redouble our efforts and clearly lay out a vision for our stewardship of the club with diversity and inclusion at its heart."
The trust will survey its supporters on the Ricketts bid over the coming weeks but Friday's intervention represents a bruising hit for what is fast developing into the most unpopular of the frontrunners. The CST's statement also called for a golden share to be handed to fans by the victorious bidder, one that would allow them to veto actions that could impact the "club heritage", including moving the stadium or rejoining the Super League. Both Broughton and the Boehly consortium have made overtures to supporters without fully committing to a golden share.
Though these two have emerged as frontrunners insiders believe it is unlikely that the identity of the successful bidder will be known before Chelsea's next game, at home to Brentford a week on Saturday. Raine have, however, trimmed back the number of competing proposals with high profile offers from Nick Candy and Saudi Media Group having failed to make the cut. The latter was one of the first to show their hands but were never deemed to be a serious contender. Candy, meanwhile, is believed to be keen to join one of the other groups still in the mix.
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Once a preferred bidder has been selected by Raine and Roman Abramovich, who has been compelled to sell the club after being sanctioned by the UK due to his links with Vladimir Putin, has confirmed he will not block it, the Premier League will then conduct its owners and directors test. It has been suggested that Harris and Blitzer may be at something of an advantage in this regard having already undergone it when buying their stake in Palace, though further checks will be required. Divesting themselves of their 18 percent holdings in the Eagles would not be a problem, a source at Selhurst Park told CBS Sports that a deal could be done "in 30 seconds".
Only once these processes have been complete will the British government amend the license under which Chelsea are operating to allow a sale to go through. Both of the leading consortia will be confident that this final hurdle can be safely negotiated as they have influential political figures in their corner. Coe is a former Conservative MP whilst Boehly's team is backed by Tory peer Daniel Finkelstein.