IAN HERBERT: Chelsea and Newcastle’s clash delivered one of English club football’s darkest days


IAN HERBERT: Chelsea and Newcastle delivered one of English football’s darkest days EVER as shameless fans revelled in blood money – for them, the horrors of Kharkiv and Riyadh don’t matter

  • The match between Chelsea and Newcastle brought dark day to English football 
  • Bar the manager, no one at Chelsea seems to take notice of Russia-Ukraine war
  • The league asks no significant questions about dirty money resided in the stands
  • For some fans, the chilling horrors abroad don’t make the remotest difference 

It was the match which delivered English club football to one of its darkest days: two teams bankrolled by blood money playing out a game to the soundtrack of taunts and jokes from fans for whom the unspeakable horrors of Kharkiv, Mariupol and Riyadh clearly don’t make the remotest difference.

If anyone needed reminding of the disgusting cash source which makes Newcastle United the latest Premier League arrivistes, then it came in the news agency reports which dropped on Saturday. They revealed that the club’s Saudi state owners had just put 81 people to death in the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years.

Seven of the 81 were Yemenis, the latest from that country to have died in the destructive war waged by Newcastle’s owners, in which more than 10,000 children are estimated to have been killed or wounded as a direct result of the fighting.

If anyone needed reminding how difficult anyone at Chelsea, other than Thomas Tuchel, seems to find acknowledging precisely what Russia is inflicting on Ukraine, then it came in the match programme cover which captured a jubilant Reece James, delighting in a goal. 

What would a Ukraine reference have cost? Arsenal’s programme cover, by contrast, was a classy monochrome image of Alexandre Lacazette, the Ukraine armband he was wearing picked out in colour. 

The clash between Chelsea and Newcastle delivered a dark day for English club football

But the real shame drenching a Premier League which asks no significant questions about this dirty money resided in the stands, where Newcastle comfortably won out in the despicability stakes. 

‘Chelsea’s skint and the Mags are rich,’ sang the fans of a club so toxified by their new owners that chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan has not even dared stage a press conference. ‘Geordie boys on a bender, Abramovich is a war offender,’ leered the laughing boys. ‘Mike Ashley is coming for you.’

It was hard to tell whether the Ukraine flag they held up was a gesture of support for Kyiv, or ridicule for Chelsea.

The defenestrated Chelsea responded to this mirth as best they could. The Roman Empire banner was still on show before the game started until someone had a word and it was taken down. 

The Ukraine flag was present in the away section during Sunday's game at Stamford Bridge

The Ukraine flag was present in the away section during Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge

But they — and other clubs with dodgy cash — are wallowing in the cesspit together. Amanda Staveley, the Saudis’ stooge at Newcastle, basked in the spotlight as she was escorted to the stadium by an underling holding her umbrella. 

She has expressed her ‘sadness’ for Abramovich, whose friend Vladimir Putin kills with impunity.

As Chelsea fans bellyached about their own ‘misfortune’, it was left to Eva Carneiro, a club doctor at Stamford Bridge for six years, to provide some perspective on Twitter. 

‘Dear football fans,’ she wrote. ‘With all the love in my heart for what football means, as someone who lived it 24 hours, consider for one moment your entertainment “suffering” versus loss of life, human suffering, loved ones, livelihoods, homes. Take one moment to imagine…’

Football does not imagine. It takes the money and dines out on the goals and the laughs. The teams offering the ‘entertainment’ provided nauseating evidence of that. Never has a result been so hollow or utterly insignificant.

The Roman Empire banner was still on show before the game started but was later taken down

The Roman Empire banner was still on show before the game started but was later taken down

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