The truth is, though, that the Olympian spirit has been in Chelsea’s blood from the outset. The driving forces behind Chelsea’s foundation in 1905, Fred Parker, Gus Mears, and Claude Kirby, were officials at London Athletic Club and Amateur Athletics Association meetings before and after the club came into being.
Parker was also a handicapper, time-keeper and club secretary for the LAC, headquartered at the Bridge since 1877, and a sometime Great Britain coach. Another LAC official, Arthur Ovenden, stewarded the press for the Pensioners on matchdays, and an LAC vice-president, Charles Pratt, would become a long-term Chelsea board member.
Not many clubs can boast a double-gold medallist as a director, but Vivian ‘Jack’ Woodward, the brilliant centre-forward who twice skippered Great Britain to victory in the final against Denmark, was on the board between 1922 and 1930 after hanging up his boots with the Pensioners.
Woodward was directly responsible for the 1913 recruitment of ‘the Great Dane’ Nils Middelboe, who became English football’s first overseas star. The two became firm friends after meeting in the 1908 and 1912 Olympic finals, the Brits prevailing 2-0 and 4-2.