Top Flight London: The Evolution of the Chelsea fanbase

By Nikki Davidson. In a series of blogs - Top Flight London, I will be profiling all the London-based clubs in the Premier League. As a Chelsea fan, where else to begin but by covering my first love, and looking at the evolution of the club

and its fans throughout the years of my support.

As a young kid in the 1990s and early 2000s, being a Chelsea supporter meant watching my club poised at the cusp of winning big. A group of talented players with an international flavour, FA Cup wins in 1997 and 2000- just about everyone believed that we would soon announce ourselves on the big stage; and so we waited.

Chelsea fans have had plenty to cheer about since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003

Chelsea fans have had plenty to cheer about since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003

As everyone knows, with the Champions League place clinched, in came Roman Abramovich and his millions, and we were one step closer to that becoming a reality. José Mourinho made an emphatic entrance and transformed Chelsea into top competitors and serial winners. His first stint was one of intense revolution, the rapid building of a team primed for instant success, which took the league by storm and challenged the standing duopoly of Arsenal and Manchester United.

Naturally, along with all the success comes those who are attracted to the glory. The league has become more global and its clubs constantly make sure they are adequately accessible and appealing to their overseas following, perhaps at the expense of the locally based match-going one. Wider broadcasting of the games on television the world over, as well as streaming of the matches on the internet, has allowed for more sports fans across the planet to become better acquainted with the Premier League, and many are naturally drawn toward the top sides. Social media has allowed for more supporters to have their say, to interact with others, but has also opened the floor to somewhat factious debates between the regular match-goers and the ‘armchair’ (or keyboard) fans or foreign supporters whose understanding of the history and the culture that surrounds the game and the club in particular is limited. Many of them do try to get to matches, but there is a large disconnect that is only widened by the television deals inconveniencing season ticket holders and the clubs’ efforts to attract and maintain the support of the overseas contingent.

Chelsea's fanbase has expanded across the globe. They received incredible support on their pre-season tour of Asia in 2013

Chelsea’s fanbase has expanded across the globe. They received incredible support on their pre-season tour of Asia in 2013

There is often noted disdain for overseas fans among the London-based followers, which is perhaps a bit unfair, but particularly for supporters who were watching Chelsea at the Bridge in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, it is difficult to relate to this new generation of fans. The subsequent divide has many levels and affects the overall feeling of support throughout the club. However, I find it quite amazing to see love for Chelsea and the Premier League from all corners of the earth, and how newer fans come to embrace everything the club and its supporters stand for.

From a financial perspective – and it cannot be denied that Chelsea does good business – this is the necessary adaptation and natural expansion into the global market. Having an international fanbase is crucial if Chelsea wishes to stand on par with other large clubs bringing in considerably significant revenue from tourists, shirt sales, and friendly games and tournaments.

This goes hand-in-hand with the long-term vision Chelsea is ostensibly trying to adopt, particularly with José’s second coming, building and moulding the club and the team into a force for the future. We are witnessing some of the greatest and most exciting players to have ever graced the game evolve under Mourinho’s tutelage. The years in between The Special One’s two stints at Chelsea have sort of seemed like an intermediary phase during which we were just biding our time until we were restored to our rightful state. Chelsea have now been galvanised under Mourinho, and are capable of achieving more than ever before.

Do you agree with foreign ownership of Premier League clubs? Is it good for the English game? After buying the club in 2003 – is Roman Abramovich now here for the long haul?

Follow @NikkiDcfc

1 Comment on Top Flight London: The Evolution of the Chelsea fanbase

  1. Well written piece Nikki, though wouldn’t necessarily agree that the Mourinho interregnum was ‘biding our time’…the Champions League win was way beyond us older timers’ expectations. It was a long way from the ’60’s Shed to the Allianz…but what a ride! KTBFFH

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