Back to today, and the Dutch FA has twice investigated the link between Chelsea and Vitesse but have concluded that there is no common management or ownership of the clubs – which is a bit of a pointless finding because common ownership is not illegal under football rules as Watford have shown.
But linked clubs can’t play in the same competition – and that would happen if both clubs qualified for the Champions League at the same time
There is no doubt (as an article in the Guardian today has shown) that when Vitesse were taken over, senior execs close to Chelsea’s ownership were involved – and that takeover was then quickly followed by Chelsea loaning Vitesse three players. But still all well and good – no rules broken.
Except that Vitesse’s charge up the league suddenly came to a halt, and they fell back to a place outside of Champions League qualification – and this happened as the ownership of the club changed. Then the ex-owner Merab Jordania started to allege that Chelsea had deliberately sought to keep Vitesse out of the qualifying positions, particularly by stopping key transfer signings happening – which of course both clubs deny. The Dutch FA looked again at the situation and concluded that there was no joint interest in Vitesse and Chelsea, and so again no rules were broken.
So now, with that established, let’s come back to the “why” questions. Why do Chelsea buy up so many players and then have them out on loan?
In March 2015 a report into the current state of the loan market found that Chelsea had, at that moment, 26 players out on loan. And at that moment the club in England with the second most players out on loan was Manchester City with 15.
But these are not by any means the largest numbers in Europe. The report noted that at that time Atalanta had an amazing 45 players out on loan while in their squad they had seven players on loan from other teams!
Verona had 46 players out on loan, Juventus had 64 players out on loan and Parma had over 100! However just at the moment the report was being completed Parma was revealed to have total liabilities of €218 million and months of unpaid salaries. It was relegated to the fourth division of Italian football.
All these bits of information suggest once again that something odd is happening within the loan system. To all intents and purposes the mass loaning out of players simply does not bring in meaningful returns for a club – and yet it is going on with insane levels among some clubs – perhaps in the vague hope that just one of the loaned out players will turn out to be a brilliant footballer.
So why have Chelsea become involved with (although they are not controlling) Vitesse? Certainly it would seem that it now has a friendly club that can take their loanees and give them experience. But still the question remains, why take on so many players who are loaned out?
The answers must be
a) to stop other clubs getting the players
b) to find a gem who will play for the club or be sold on at a profit.
The worry is that there is more of a) going on than b), and that because this is clearly not good for the integrity of the sport, it is worth Chelsea’s while covering their tracks by having some of their players in a club that they have an interest (although as has been shown not a controlling interest) in.
It clearly isn’t good for the competitiveness of football for regular clubs to find that many players are excluded from the market because a super rich club has bought them up and controls where they might go, and it would be nice to think that the media, Fifa and Uefa might like to pursue this issue further, but once again there seems to be little appetite to do this.
It seems, no one is going to tackle this oddity any time soon.