A Farewell To Ron
So farewell, Ron Gourlay. Amid all the intrigue about what difference the departure of Chelsea's Chief Executive will make to fans, team, club – the most pertinent question seems to have been missed.
October 24th, 2014
Will anyone notice he has gone?
While Gourlay has overseen a turbulent period in the development in Roman Abramovich’s club, he has seldom been the face of the organisation.
Whenever he has ventured into the public eye – such as his live TalkSport performance on, y’know, the punishment, y’know, doled out on John Terry, y’know – he was quickly bundled back into the sound-proofed cupboard soon after.
His complete refusal to sound one note of regret for the appointment of Rafael Benitez as interim manager, possibly the least popular move by any footballing executive in the recent history of the game, hardly endeared him to what he would no doubt refer to as his ‘customer base’.
Though, that aside the feeling from the stands seldom ever rose beyond mere disdain –compared with the pretty open dislike for predecessor Peter Kenyon – of whom he was a protégé.
Ironically, one of his better moments came amid one of the most embarrassing and unpopular pieces of mismanagement the club has seen during Abramovich’s tenure.
In the abortive attempt to seize control of Chelsea Pitch Owners, he gave a speech to shareholders which, while full of red-rag terms like ‘stakeholders’, ‘customers’ and ‘brand building’ – actually made a reasonable impression with an overwhelmingly hostile audience.
Or perhaps that was only in comparison to the way his Chairman, by his side, was received.
While steering a ship whose path was so frequently at the whim of sudden changes of wind from the east, Gourlay’s main achievement seems to have been to make his own role superfluous.
The precise seat of control at Chelsea has been a pretty nebulous concept for much of the last decade, with clouds of Abramovich advisors frequently changing in form and composition.
The Main Man now seems to have on his side a selection of executives he knows and trusts – Jose Mourinho, Michael Emenalo, Eugene Tenenbaum and Marina Granovskaia.
The last of those names is certainly crucial in where things have been moving for some time, and where they will continue to travel next.
While the official line from Chelsea is that she is a Director and advisor to the Board, it is clear she is much more than that.
Great with languages, owning a ferocious business mind, a good understanding of people – and, most crucially of all, with Abramovich’s ear – Granovskaia has long been Chelsea’s unofficial chief of administration.
So, given all of this, does the club need a new Chief Exec?
With Chelsea being a private company (or rather network of companies), it is up to Abramovich to impose whatever form of corporate governance he so wishes on the club.
Chief Exec or no Chief Exec – nobody can tell him what to do (or, at the very least, one imagines those who try will get very short shrift).
So farewell to what’s-his-name, and as you were people…