Roman Abramovich Defends His Manager Sackings in Rare Interview


Chelsea owner and billionaire Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich simply doesn’t do media availabilities very much. When he gives an interview, it is such a rare occurence that it’s news in and of itself. Abramovich, whom Forbes recently ranked as the world’s 113th richest person and wealthiest of all in Israel, sat down with the magazine for an extensive, wide-ranging interview. 

It covered a lot of ground, but definitely stayed very clear of any potentially incendiary geopolitical subjects. While yes, the piece does look at Abramovich’s persistent efforts to root out Anti-Semitism and racism, it doesn’t touch on his very close connections to Russian despot Vladimir Putin, nor his recent VISA trouble with the United Kingdom government, and the foreign relations issues that surround it.

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(Chelsea vs Sheffield United FA Cup preview material go here and here)

While the interview also saw Abramovich advocate for greater acknowledgement of the women’s team, which is noble, the major takeaway here was his defense of his own itchy trigger finger when it comes to his managers. In 18 years, he’s had 15 different managers, and that stat says it all regarding the frequency with which Blues boss sackings occur under his regime.

“I think the trophies speak for themselves and show what we as a club have been able to achieve over these years and it’s my goal for us to keep winning trophies going forward and build for the future,” Abramovich said in the interview.

“The club was here before me, and will be here after me, but my job is to ensure we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future.”

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The results speak for themselves however, as what he’s done/does/continues to do certainly works. It may seem ruthless to some, the quick hire and fire policy, with little leeway and patience being given to the managers, but it works. Before Abramovich took over the club, Chelsea had little history.

Since 2003, they now have a massively filled trophy case, with top honors.

“I think we are pragmatic in our choices,” Abramovich continued.

“And we are comfortable making the right changes at the right time to ensure we can achieve our long-term ambitions. I hope it also says something about the clarity of the long-term ambition of the club. Those who join understand the objectives both on the pitch, as well as the wider positive role the club plays in the community.”

While the discussion of consistently rapid managerial turnover was the headline of this interview, one should definitely pay attention to this passage as well:

Abramovich’s comfort zone is in infusing values and inspiring standards throughout Chelsea, rather than generating personal celebrity. “It has never been my ambition to have a public profile,” he says. His instinct is that the performance of the team, manger, board, and club “should speak for itself. It is not helpful to provide additional running commentary.”

It gives a glimpse into why Abramovich is so private, and doesn’t care to do media. We spoke with Alison Bender, former Chelsea TV Presenter and ESPN reporter about Abramovich for our forthcoming book “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America.” 

Here’s an excerpt. 

During her time working for Chelsea, one of the perks was access to their special gym at Stamford Bridge. 

“It’s like the most exclusive gym you’ve ever seen,” she said. 

“Whenever I would go in there, you always find a player, or (Chelsea Owner Roman) Abramovich himself. He has even his own private part of the gym, behind the gym- literally just for him. 

“Which you would, if you wanted that kind of privacy, right? But I also thought what a sad kind of life- because normal human interaction is a part of life, and I don’t think he gets much normal interaction. 

“It must be hard for him.”


Bender also went on to say that during her career she found a lot of key figures at major clubs to be pretty open to doing media, and not shy at all. However, there are sometimes other obstacles along the way.

“I find it really sad actually, usually the players and managers are brilliant (British slang meaning “great”) with me,” she continued.

“And it’s actually the club policy, the press officers that put the barriers up. If it wasn’t for those guys I’d really have a much easier time getting the really good interviews out of the players, because they’re willing to talk and they like to.”

dasha zhukova

The Abramovich interview is being picked up and quoted by numerous outlets, all across the world. Even Chelsea’s official website posted a piece on it.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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