Muslim fans from Chelsea’s international fanbase have voiced their outrage at the possibility that a family tarnished by Islamaphobic comments could buy their football club.
The frontrunners to buy Chelsea Football Club are Tom, Laura and Todd Ricketts, three siblings who own the Chicago Cubs baseball team and have a vast fortune from their family’s finance and property empire.
News website, Splinter, obtained a string of emails sent by the three siblings’ father, Joe Ricketts, between 2009 and 2013 which contained Islamaphobic comments, such as referring to Muslims as “the enemy”.
Chelsea Supporters Trust have launched the #NoToRicketts Twitter campaign to oppose the takeover, which has gained widespread support from the club’s supporter groups in Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
Agung Santoso, from the Indonesian official supporters club, said: “The movement from the Chelsea Supporters Trust is already a step forward in terms of the concerns about Islamophobia.”
Ali Abdul Salam, from the Thuwal official supporters group in Saudi Arabia, said: “I have found it very disturbing, and a club whose fans come from all over the world and represent multiple religions should not have an owner who is insensitive to a religion.”
He added: “I have been using Twitter to spread the word against Ricketts and promote the campaign even more. The best solution would be to show the Chelsea board how much the fans are against this takeover and have a unified voice against this bid.”
Ricketts family response
The Ricketts family have responded to the fanbase’s outrage. The three siblings who are leading the bid have distanced themselves from their father’s comments. A Muslim civil rights leader in Chicago, Ahmed Rehab, has publicly endorsed the Ricketts siblings and said they have done a lot of good work for the Muslim community in Chicago.
However, some Muslim Chelsea supporters are skeptical of these comments.
Salam said: “I see it as a publicity stunt. In fact, we have discarded this news with no truth as we believe it is intentionally done news that was fabricated by the Ricketts to gain some popularity with the Chelsea fans.”
Dwaraka Kabir, law student from Streatham and lifelong Chelsea fan, said: “The timing is too convenient, it’s not enough to get the fans on side. The three kids can try and distance themselves from their dad but their wealth comes from him, they cannot escape it.”
Solidarity amongst fans
The opposition to the takeover has demonstrated solidarity amongst the Chelsea fanbase, which has its own history of racism and islamaphobia including discriminatory chants against Muslim player Mohammed Salah.
Salam said: “It is hard to eradicate all the racists and Islamaphobic fans but if our owner is someone who promotes it, it will become even more difficult. In the past weeks, I have seen the solidarity of the Chelsea fans across Twitter.”
London based Chelsea fan group WE ARE THE SHED has called on Chelsea supporters to protest outside of Stamford Bridge on Saturday to protest any potential involvement from the Ricketts family.
Kabir, who will attend the protests, said: “This isn’t about Muslim fans, this is about a fan community from all different backgrounds that needs to stand together. As a club with a huge global following, we need our owner to be respectful of religious and cultural differences.”
He added: “The club won’t listen to the fans until we do something. We protested the Super League last year and forced the owners to listen to us, we need to do the same now. Anyone who cares about Chelsea should join the protest, this affects all of us.”
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