Chelsea chairman: 'Personable' Pulisic key for growing U.S. fan base
Chelsea hopes Christian Pulisic will help the London club expand its U.S. fan base and assist the team's campaign to combat anti-Semitism.
Chelsea bought the 20-year-old midfielder from Borussia Dortmund in January for $73 million, by far a record price for an American player, then loaned him back to the German club for the rest of the season. Pulisic can't play for Chelsea for a May 15 charity exhibition at the New England Revolution dubbed the "Final Whistle on Hate," but will play a role in Chelsea's promotional efforts after he joins in July.
"He's a personable boy. He's well-liked in this country," Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said during an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. "So of course I would expect him when we come here and play some friendly matches, which is what our objective is in the summer of 2020. Then yes, I think he will he will be helpful."
Manchester United has the highest average U.S. viewers among Premier League clubs this season at 630,000 on NBC, NBCSN and their digital streams, topping Arsenal (573,000), Liverpool (563,000) Chelsea (534,000), Manchester City (494,000) and Tottenham (477,000). Kickoff times and appearances on the late Saturday NBC match impact audience.
"The surveys tell us that we're very strong on the two coasts," Buck said. "We have some work to do in Middle America. I think we're doing in round terms as well as any other big club."
Next month's charity match is a project of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and New England Patriots and Revolution owner Robert Kraft to focus on the increase in hate crimes. Beneficiaries include the World Jewish Congress; the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that was the site of a mass shooting last year; the Anti-Defamation League; and the Holocaust Educational Trust. Both teams will take part in the "March of the Living" event from the Auschwitz to Birkenau concentration camps in Poland on May 2, a remembrance of the Holocaust.
"What we're trying to do, mostly in the UK but also here, is educate people, make them aware of the issue and hopefully change some attitudes," Buck said.
Chelsea's season has been marred by a series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents. The club stopped three supporters from entering Thursday's Europa League match at Slavia Prague after they were identified singing a derogatory chant about Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.
UEFA opened an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitic chanting by Blues supporters during a Europa League group stage match against Vidi in Budapest in December, though no disciplinary action was ultimately taken.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.