Groups rivalling the Ricketts consortium bid for control of Chelsea are angry at what they believe to be preferential treatment shown to the Chicago Cubs owners, according to reports, as the fight to replace Roman Abramovich heats up.
The Times have claimed that one of the four shortlisted groups is concerned that the process’ rules have been ‘breached’ after Bruce Buck, the club’s chairman, organised a meeting between Tom Ricketts and former Blues player Paul Canoville.
Canoville has publicly called for the bid from the Ricketts to be rejected as a result of past racist comments made by Joe, the head of the family.
‘If they want the Ricketts family to buy the club from Roman Abramovich, just tell the rest of us now and spare us what is an awful lot of hard work,’ the bid adviser said.
The controversy has arisen after a letter sent to bidding groups on March 1 insisted that there should be no contact made with the executive during the sales process.
But despite this, Tom Ricketts – Joe’s son – spoke to Buck and requested him to set up a summit with Canoville, the club’s first black player, after the family were made aware of the mounting opposition to their proposals from the Chelsea fanbase.
Tom Ricketts met with Paul Canoville to discuss his concerns over the group’s Chelsea bid
Canoville publicly called for the proposal to be rejected because of past racist comments
The meeting was held last Thursday, ahead of the Ricketts receiving notice from Raine Group, a US bank leading the sale, that they had made the shortlist.
Now, however, the other consortiums have expressed their alarm at the sit-down with Canoville, and have pointed out the fact that they were told not to speak to the executive team at Stamford Bridge ahead of the preferred bidder being selected.
Chelsea have confirmed that Buck facilitated the summit and attended.
They have stressed, though, that he did not play an ‘active part’ in the chat.
‘Why has Bruce helped Ricketts to organise this meeting?’ the insider added.
Joe Ricketts (above), the head of the family, had called Muslims ‘my enemy’ in leaked emails
There are four parties left in the race to replace Roman Abramovich after he was sanctioned
‘He’s actually helping them to cleanse their reputation when we have all been told we can’t speak to the Chelsea executive until we have the opportunity to meet them next week.
‘We see it as a breach of the rules of the process; a failure to follow the instructions.’
Gary Trowsdale, a patron of the Paul Canoville Foundation, has shed light on the contents of the discussion between Ricketts and Canoville.
‘Paul gave Tom Ricketts a severe grilling, and Tom Ricketts apologised to him for those comments that had been made by his relatives,’ Trowsdale told PA.
‘Paul was very forthright, he told them the reason he tweeted and supported the “No To Ricketts” campaign was because of what he’d read and seen on social media, that Tom Ricketts’ family had been responsible for.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck facilitated the recent meeting between Ricketts and Canoville
‘Tom Ricketts said he wouldn’t try to hide from those comments, that they weren’t his values, that they were abhorrent; and he apologised.
‘He explained that they are very, very keen to take the football club on, and they know they must win round the fans, and also win round Paul.
‘We were impressed that he’d want to sit down with Paul, have that conversation and apologise himself for those comments that were made. He didn’t make those comments himself, but he was still sitting there apologising for them.
Canoville is not backing a particular bid
‘Tom Ricketts showed Paul total respect; it was Tom Ricketts who asked to see Paul.’
He went on to add: ‘Ultimately Paul wasn’t swayed in any which way.
‘He made it clear he supported the views of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust and he’d continue to do so.
‘But he did feel Tom Ricketts should be given the opportunity, now he’s been shortlisted, to put forward the best possible bid.’
Canoville has since revealed that he is not backing a particular bid.
He has emerged as an influential figure in the process, Sportsmail understands.
Meanwhile, the consortiums still in the race have been warned to stop making open statements in an attempt to prevent the process from becoming distasteful.
In the next two weeks, Raine will select the preferred bidder and pitch them to both the government and the Premier League, as reported recently by Sportsmail.
Parties can increase their offers, with a deadline of April 11 set for second bids.