Alan Hubbard

I have known Lord Coe since he was an impecunious teenage prodigy. Even then, he held two passions outside his beloved athletics - boxing and Chelsea FC.

He loved to talk about great fighters and great fights, of which he had a deep knowledge but when it came to football he had eyes for only one club. He was and still is a dyed-in-the-blue Chelsea fan and has long been a season ticket holder at Stamford Bridge.

As it happens, the London club is the victim of sport’s biggest fiscal fall out over the war in Ukraine, with the British Government sanctioning the Russian, Roman Abramovich, whose chequebook has underpinned the fortunes of Chelsea for the past 17 years.

Chelsea, the current European champions, have used Abramovich's unlimited supply of rubles well, achieving consistently good results despite the owners hiring and firing of a succession of managers.

But now the Abramovich era is over. As a sanctioned oligarch who is uncomfortably close to Putin, he must sell the club which faces an uncertain future.

Fortunately for Chelsea there is considerable interest from a number of consortiums, including one which includes Lord Coe.

So I was astonished when a Labour MP declared that his lordship is not a "fit and proper person" to be part of a consortium making a takeover bid.

The left-wing MP, Chris Bryant, declared that Coe was "completely unsuitable" because of his media company's relationship with an imprisoned Russian oligarch.

Questions have been raised about whether Seb Coe is a "fit and proper person" to be part of a consortium bidding to take over Chelsea ©Getty Images
Questions have been raised about whether Seb Coe is a "fit and proper person" to be part of a consortium bidding to take over Chelsea ©Getty Images

According to Bryant, Lord Coe should have run a mile from Andrey Chernyakov after the construction mogul lost a £150 million ($198 million/€180 million) case in the High Court.

Instead he alleges Coe’s company CSM continued to sell thousands of pounds worth of hospitality at sporting events until he was eventually extradited to Russia and jailed.

"Seb Coe and CSM should have run a mile from this man," said Bryant. "The fact that they didn’t make him completely unsuitable for Chelsea now."

Chelsea has been placed up for sale after the Government responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by stripping Abramovich’s involvement because of his closeness to The Kremlin.

However the fact that Chernikov is now behind bars hardly suggests he is a pal of Putin.

And though like many in international sport Coe is acquainted with Putin, he’s no bosom buddy of the Rogue Russian president, nor is he of Abramovich.

So I think Bryant is way off the mark in suggesting that the double Olympic gold medallist should not be a member of the Chelsea Board. In fact I can think of no one better suited. 

He is a genuinely lifelong Chelsea fan, is extremely well contacted in sport through his role as President of World Athletics and membership of the International Olympic Committee.

There is no one better at gladhanding and influencing people who matter in sport. And his working knowledge of how Games should be run can be gauged from his brilliant masterminding of London 2012.