"I love watching the matches. My grandson and I watch them together."
Chelsea Football Club (CFC) is one of the most widely supported teams in the world.
The London club also ranks seventh in Forbes magazine’s 2020 list of the world’s richest football clubs.
Naturally, a club of this stature has millions of fans not just domestically, but internationally as well.
India, being one of the biggest and most populated countries, is among the nations with the most number of football fans.
Manchester United and Chelsea FC are the two clubs with the lion’s share of the total football fans in India.
Identifying increasing support, Chelsea continually attempts to strengthen their presence in India.
According to the Daily Star, India ranks fifth amongst the top 10 countries with most Chelsea fans on Facebook.
The overall popularity of the English Premier League (EPL) also plays a big role in the massive support Chelsea receives in India.
James P. Curley and Oliver Roeder, in their journal English Soccer’s Mysterious Worldwide Popularity, talk about EPL’s worldwide appeal.
EPL’s combined (domestic and international) broadcasting rights make for billions of dollars. An average EPL match garners a staggering 12 million viewers worldwide.
Around 2005, the EPL was the most telecasted league in India as well. This was the time when the craze for international club football had just began to rise in India.
During the same period, Chelsea had started to perform exceedingly well.
With Chelsea achieving constant success since 2004, this has eventually led to a monumental increase in the club’s Indian fan base.
Thus, let’s look at how popular the Premier League club actually is in India.
Founded in 1905, Chelsea FC is a fairly new entrant in football in comparison to other big boys.
However, over the years, the club has managed to carve its name amongst the most illustrious teams.
Popularly known as The Blues, Chelsea is the only club from London to win the prestigious UEFA Champions League (UCL) in 2011-2012.
The club also has the second-highest number of Premier League titles (5). Chelsea’s glorious trophy cabinet is one of the reasons why people in India follow Chelsea.
Some of the world’s most legendary players like Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba, Fabregas and Eden Hazard also played for Chelsea at a time when it was gaining popularity in India.
These players also hold a god-like place for the Chelsea supporters in India.
In August 2020, Chelsea went onto launch a web series by the name of Frank Lampard: Coming Home. This was watched and shared by thousands of Indian supporters.
The club has legions of fans and over 500 Official Supporters Clubs all across the world.
To cater to its Indian fanbase, the club has started putting up a lot of India specific content on their social media handles.
Chelsea FC in India
In October 2019, the English football giants roped in Bollywood star Arjun Kapoor as India’s brand ambassador for CFC.
The club announced that Arjun would lead their fan engagement in India.
He also featured in an online talk show series, Out of the Blue with Arjun Kapoor (2019) for CFC.
It went on-air via the club’s social networks, official website and app.
On the show, Arjun Kapoor interviewed Chelsea manager and the club’s highest goal scorer, Frank Lampard:
Commenting on travelling to India and Chelsea fans in the country, Lampard said:
“I haven’t (visited India) and I would love to come. I know we have a huge fan base in India. It is something we surely appreciate and will engage even more because we are really thankful.”
When the actor told him he became a CFC fan in 1999, Lampard expressed:
“You mentioned that 1999 was the year you started supporting Chelsea, I arrived in the early 2000s…”
“It’s been a big deal for me to see the growth of Chelsea as a world brand. It is something that makes us very proud that as a player….we had great support in far off places.
“I know we have big support in India and it is something that we appreciate.”
Not only Arjun Kapoor, but many other famous Indian actors are also fans of the English club.
Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek Bachchan are also big supporters of the club.
Arjun who also went onto becoming CFC ambassador joyfully spoke:
“I have passionately rooted for the Club, celebrated the victories and felt the heartbreaks from the losses.
“As a fan, I’m privileged that I’m getting to spread the word in India through my knowledge of the Club and the game
“I’m thrilled that I will be hosting the club’s exclusively crafted campaign intended to bring the Indian fans closer to the Club.”
The actor also said to become the brand ambassador of Chelsea FC in India was a dream come true.
CFC defines supporters club as:
“Official Supporters Clubs are groups of 20 or more like-minded fans who get together to watch and support Chelsea, wherever they are in the world.”
These clubs are divided into different tiers, based on how many members they have, with the gold tier being the highest.
They receive lots of rewards and benefits from CFC, including:
- Welcome packs with signed merchandise
- Opportunities to meet legends and trophies
- Club and partner discounts
India also has over 70 Official Supporters’ Clubs. These fan groups are divided across various regions of the country and are all listed on the CFC website.
These clubs regularly hold match screenings, fan competitions and events in select venues.
The supporters’ clubs have seen increase turnouts over the years and have become quite a trend in India.
On some occasions, supporters’ clubs of other teams collaborate and even hold joint screenings.
These events are full of fervour, chants and fan banter; an experience to remember for any football fan.
One such supporter’s club is the Delhi Capital Blues (DCB).
Delhi Capital Blues
Delhi Capital Blues (DCB) is one of the most active and followed supporter’s club in India.
It managed to get recognised by CFC in a very short span of time, a feat that’s not ordinary.
Beginning from a meagre 6 members in 2011, the club now has 600 registered members.
DCB regularly host fan interactions, online match screenings, quizzes and giveaways on its social media platforms.
They also have an eponymous blog where they regularly put up features and articles. This is concerning pre and post-match analysis.
Their blog attracts more than 20,000 readers who are eager to get their Chelsea dose every month.
They tie up with Yokohama, one of Chelsea’s main sponsors, for various events and collaborations.
Talking about how DCB began their journey, Sidharth Sharma, one of the founders and a former admin of the club, said:
“We started with a small WhatsApp group based in Delhi. We were inspired by supporters’ clubs around the world.
“Our aim was to get together and watch the game with true blue fans and get a step closer to the stadium like experience.
“We later got registered and started with regular screenings and events.”
On average, the DCB screenings see a turnout of a whopping 150-200 members.
According to Sidharth, up to 1000 people have also attended the screenings on many occasions.
Watch a video of fans enjoying Chelsea crushing Arsenal in the 2019 Europa League final:
Due to the increase in members over time, DCB now organises football tournaments and charities to nurture kids for a better future in life.
They also work with other small and big cities and encourage them to start their own supporters’ club.
After seeing a rise in the number of fans, Chelsea FC has now enlisted a team specially dedicated for India.
Explaining the influence and reach of DCB, Sidharth said:
“We now get more opportunities to get featured on Chelsea FC’s official portals and voice our opinions as fans.
“We also have a bigger say in the supporters club community too.
“Chelsea have been really kind to the fans in India recently and who knows, we might even see a Chelsea player coming to India soon.
“We don’t want to just another supporters club, we want to go beyond and give CFC more exposure.”
The DCB has a big reach across social media. This includes over 20,000 members on their Facebook page and 2000 plus followers through Instagram.
Hence, this is proof that there has been a huge increase in Chelsea’s fanbase in India over the years.
Highlighting this increasing love for Chelsea, DCB President Sachin Dhingra, exclusively told DESIblitz:
“We were always aware of the thousands of CFC fans in Delhi. That’s how we knew DCB would one day be bigger than what it was.
“We are now planning to increase the number of screening venues; we want at least 5-6 of them, in and around Delhi.”
“There are so many fans who turn up for events that sometimes it’s difficult to fit them under one roof!”
The rise in Chelsea’s popularity is also evident by fan interactions and reactions on the club’s official social media posts.
Having been privy to this shift in the Indian fan base, Sachin says:
“You can see that Chelsea FC has become much more active in India. You can see so many India specific events taking place.
“They have made the fans feel closer to the Club now more than ever. They help us with everything.
“They have also started posting India related posts on their social media handles. I find them really cool and creative.
“They have realised that India has one of the biggest fan bases in the world, and they now want to capitalise on it.”
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for DCB and their screenings have taken a backseat.
But Sachin is still positive as he states:
“Yes, due to Covid-19 regulations, we had to stop our screenings and meetups.
“But it hasn’t stopped us from showing our love for our favourite football club. We are true Blues after all!
“We have now shifted to electronic ways to stay active and keep the spirits of the members high.”
Consequently, the DCB host e-screenings and conduct fan contests online. This helps their CFC community stay connected even during COVID-19.
Fans and Drogba Visit
In November 2019, a video of Kusum Kaneriya, an 85-year old female Chelsea fan from Kolkata, went viral on the internet.
Chelsea FC uploaded her video on their Facebook page. Kusum spoke of her love for the London club.
In the video, she is wearing Chelsea’s blue jersey and scarf, sitting with her grandson. He is also an ardent Chelsea fan.
Conversing with CFC, she expressed:
“When Kante scores a goal, I feel very good.
“I love watching the matches. My grandson and I watch them together.
“When Chelsea scores a goal, my grandson starts jumping and I join him as well. We watch late-night matches as well.”
Watch the video of Chelsea fan, Kusum Kaneriya:
“When that match is on, everyone is sitting and watching together. It makes me very happy”Meet 85 year old super fan Kusum Kaneriya and her grandson Vivek, whose special bond has been made even stronger by a shared passion for Chelsea ??
Posted by Chelsea Football Club on Wednesday, November 13, 2019
The video received 45,000 likes in total. She is the living embodiment of the passion India has for CFC.
Another incident that no Chelsea fan can ever forget is when Didier Drogba came to India.
Often called the Prince of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s home ground, Drogba is a cult figure for any CFC fan.
In November 2018, Yokohama also arranged Drogba’s trip to India for the Chelsea fans in the country.
In addition, Yokohama tied up with various supporters clubs in Delhi for this event. The moment Drogba entered the venue, the cheering and howling were through the roof.
Drogba was clearly shocked to see so many Chelsea fans shouting his name and asking for pictures. He himself said that he had not expected such a huge number of people.
Being a gold-tier club, the DCB team were among the few people who had exclusive access to the event.
Partnership with Star Sports
In December 2020, Chelsea FC added another milestone in their journey to conquer India.
The club launched a partnership with Star Sports to offer more Chelsea related content to its Indian fanbase.
Chelsea’s head of global marketing, Jon Scammell, announced on his LinkedIn page:
“Delighted to announce a new content partnership with India’s leading sports broadcaster, Star Sports.”
“The partnership, including Hotstar and Disney+, will see the launch of an exclusive monthly Chelsea FC show across the network unlocking a new audience and bringing our fantastic fans in India closer to the club.”
The Chelsea FC show will have interactive sessions and club trivia among other things.
It will be hosted by sports presenter and journalist Anant Tyagi, who is also a self-confessed CFC fan.
This partnership is bound to give thousands of Indian Chelsea fans more insights and behind-the-scenes information about their beloved club.
A club is nothing without its fans, and fans are nothing without a club.
There has been a massive increase in Chelsea FC fans in India over the years, helping the club earn more revenue. This is only going to get more and more.
CFC is definitely tapping into the Indian market, bringing the club closer to its fans in India.
If anyone arrives in India and wants to attend a screening, it is important to check the nearest supporters club on CFC’s website.
After all, what’s the fun in watching a match alone? As for Chelsea Football Club and their supporters in India, there is a lot more to come, including enjoying more silverware.