Project Under Threat: Angry Strasbourg fans protest over Chelsea’s Strasbourg project

Chelsea’s Strasbourg project threatens to turn sour as angry fans protest over some familiar problems

Stamford Bridge is not the only place where Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali are coming under fire.

Chelsea’s owners are also facing a backlash from angry fans of Strasbourg, the French club they bought a majority stake in last summer to kick-start their multi-club project.

While the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust this month warned of “irreversible toxicity” towards Boehly and Eghbali in west London, Strasbourg’s largest fan group, Ultra Boys 90, have said their BlueCo project “aren’t welcome and never will be”.

Antagonism towards Boehly and Eghbali in France comes amid poor results, criticism of their youth-first transfer strategy and fury among fans about a lack of communication from the owners. Sound familiar?

Chelsea fans have warned of organised protest, and at Strasbourg there is already revolt among supporters, who will hold a protest march before their game against Rennes on Sunday.

“Racing is now nothing more than a financial asset, owned by an investment fund that already owns another club,” said Ultra Boys 90 in a statement this month. “Multi-club is killing football, and we’ll fight it!

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“Two transfer windows have also come and gone, and all we can do is watch helplessly as our club is stripped of all its experienced players in favour of young, up-and-coming players. We’re not fooled! No professional club can be competitive under these conditions. That’s why we’re asking: what is BlueCo’s real plan for Racing?”

The feeling among Strasbourg fans is that BlueCo is using Strasbourg to boost its primary asset, Chelsea.

Boehly has said they want to create pathways for young players to make it at Chelsea by giving them game time in a competitive European league.

The feeling among Strasbourg fans is that BlueCo is using Strasbourg to boost its primary asset

There was opposition from Strasbourg fans from the start, and resentment has grown. The team from the Alsace region have been dragged into a relegation battle in Ligue 1 after a run of just two wins in nine games this year under manager Patrick Vieira.

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When Vieira wanted reinforcements in January, BlueCo sent Andre Santos on loan from Chelsea after he struggled to get a look-in at Forest. They also signed 18-year-old Serbian striker Milos Lukovic, another player for the future, who was immediately loaned back to IMT Belgrade.

Vieira wanted a winger, but BlueCo’s failure to sign a wide player was blamed on its desire for 19-year-old on-loan Chelsea youngster Angelo Gabriel to play every week.

Gabriel recently returned to Chelsea for treatment on a hernia problem and he could miss the rest of the season, leaving Vieira just one wide player and forcing him to adapt his system to play with wing-backs to provide width.

That is just one sign that the relationship is not working well for Strasbourg.

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Chelsea sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart are just as influential as Strasbourg head of recruitment Loic Desire.

Vieira joined club president Marc Keller and four senior players when meeting Ultra Boys 90 last Thursday in a bid to help calm tensions. Their efforts were appreciated, but Ultra Boys 90 continues to demand a meeting with BlueCo, particularly Eghbali.

He is the most involved in the football operations at both clubs but has attended just two Strasbourg matches this season.

Keller insisted in a recent interview with L’Equipe that Chelsea are more like a “brother” and “not above, but next to us”, but suspicion among Strasbourg fans is rife.

Troyes were relegated from Ligue 1 last season, three years after they were taken over by Manchester City’s City Football Group.

With the protest planned this weekend, Boehly and Eghbali are getting it in the neck from the King’s Road to the Rhine Valley.

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