Laura Ricketts has insisted it is her “life’s work to fight against discrimination” after acknowledging the family’s proposed takeover of Chelsea will not win over all fans “right away” amid ongoing opposition to their offer for the club.
The Ricketts family investment group, led by Joe Ricketts’ children Tom, Todd and Laura have faced a fierce backlash from some Chelsea supporters after it emerged that Joe was accused of Islamophobia three years ago.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust has voiced concerns about the Ricketts family on grounds of diversity while around 100 supporters protested outside Stamford Bridge before Saturday’s 4-1 home defeat to Brentford.
Prominent members of the bid including Laura and key financial backer Ken Griffin have been in London this week meeting with various fan groups to assuage their fears and attended Chelsea Women’s 5-0 win over Reading Women at Kingsmeadow on Sunday.
Issuing a statement to ESPN on Thursday, Laura Ricketts, who came out as gay in the 1990s, said: “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.”
The Ricketts family are one of four offers vying for favouritism with New York-based merchant bank Raine Group set to confirm a preferred bidder shortly after their deadline of April 11.
The public opposition to their proposal is the biggest headache for the Ricketts family, with the CST stating last week that 77% of its members do not support their bid and 72% do not have confidence they would run an inclusive and successful club.
Laura Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, confirmed meetings with Tracy Brown from Chelsea Price and Kerrie Evans from Chelsea Women Supporters Group.
“Obviously, I can’t comment on talks we had with Chelsea officials because that has to remain confidential,” she continued in the statement. “But I can say we had very informative and enjoyable meetings with some passionate fan groups.
“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.
“Tracy Brown reminded me of a lot of people I know and have worked with in Chicago — leaders who put themselves out there for their community.
“She loves Chelsea and wants herself and her community to be acknowledged and to have a voice. We agreed to stay in touch, starting with a Zoom next week with me and the Founder of Out at Wrigley, an annual LGBTQ+ event that the Cubs have hosted at Wrigley Field since 2001.”
Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly is fronting a rival bid and was at Stamford Bridge for Wednesday’s 3-1 home defeat to Real Madrid in Chelsea’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg.
Sources have told ESPN he is due to hold meetings with senior figures at the club in the next 24 hours to help fine-tune their bid ahead of Monday’s deadline.
It is expected the other bids, one led by British businessman Sir Martin Broughton and another involving Boston Celtics chief Steve Pagliuca, will be afforded similar opportunities to help maintain the integrity of the bid process.