Prospective Chelsea buyers the Ricketts family have moved to ease supporters' concerns about their stance on certain social issues as they look to complete a takeover at Stamford Bridge.
Headed by siblings Laura and Tom, the Ricketts are one of four final bidders vying to assume control of the club from oligarch Roman Abramovich, who put his prized asset up for sale before sanctions were imposed on him by the UK government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
However, the Chicago Cubs owners' interest has drawn a backlash from the Chelsea fanbase due to historic Islamophobic remarks from family patriarch Joe and recent anti-abortion comments from brother Pete, who is governor of Nebraska.
The hashtag '#NoToRicketts' has been trending on Twitter, and a small protest was organised ahead of the home defeat to Brentford on Saturday.
The Ricketts, who are backed by American billionaire Ken Griffin, have been in London recently for talks and meetings with stakeholders.
The family has already outlined eight pledges to the Chelsea fanbase should their bid be successful, and now Laura Ricketts has given a lengthy statement in an attempt to reassure supporters of their stance on some key issues.
Here is what she had to say...
Laura Ricketts statement in full
We have had a memorable few days in London, taking the opportunity to meet as many people as possible from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Obviously, I can’t comment on talks we had with Chelsea officials because that has to remain confidential. But I can say we had very informative and enjoyable meetings with some passionate fan groups – in particular with Tracy Brown from Chelsea Pride and Kerrie Evans from Chelsea Women Supporters Group.
We also met Sanjay Bhandari, the Chair of Kick It Out, and it was wonderful to hear about all the work he’s doing. We admire their approach and would like to introduce them to Major League Baseball.
I was also thrilled to go to the Chelsea Women’s game at the weekend and I flew in early to make the match. It was a joy to see the incredible athletic talent of the Chelsea Women and to also experience the supporters’ amazing energy at Kingsmeadow.
Much of my life’s work has been about empowering and supporting women, so to see these young women playing at this level was a real treat for me. It was also so great to see all the families who were at the game.
Sport has such power to bring communities together and family is at the heart of the community. Some of the girls there reminded me of my 11-year-old daughter. For young girls to see the Chelsea Women on the pitch can be inspiring and empowering to them.
In recent weeks, we’ve also had several valuable conversations with the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust. I appreciate their passion for Chelsea and the important questions they’ve raised. I look forward to continuing the good conversations we’ve begun.
We all need to be listening and speaking up, and I feel a particular responsibility because of the position I’m in. We’re not going to be able to persuade all the fans right away that we will be good stewards of Chelsea – we’re going to have to show them with meaningful action if we are successful in our bid.
But I can assure all Chelsea fans that it has been my life’s work to fight against discrimination and bigotry of any kind.
Coming out as an LGBTQ+ woman has influenced my perspective and sensitivity about diversity and inclusion. I can’t know what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes, but I can begin to understand and have an awareness of their different experience. And that’s a gift. In the position that I’m in, I feel a sense of responsibility to be an advocate. To me, being an advocate means speaking up, and also listening.
When we assumed responsibility for the Chicago Cubs and its legacy, we immediately realised that teams like the Cubs don’t belong to one person or organisation. They belong to the fans. We’re stewards – and we’re answerable to the fans. That’s how we see it in Chicago – and it would be exactly the same at Chelsea.
There is such power in sport for community building and to bring diverse people together. At Cubs Charities, we have developed our own sport-based youth development programming that engages young people and families in under-served communities. As the Chair of Cubs Charities, I am proud of our work and the impact it has on so many lives.
Here, the Chelsea Foundation already makes a significant impact and I would hope we could help build on this. We strive to be champions both on and off the field. It’s what makes Chelsea great, and is a tradition we would honour if we were to become the club’s next stewards.