Sunday 16 December 2018

Chelsea left in limbo with new stadium and manager's future up in air

Roman Abramovich. Photo: Reuters
Roman Abramovich. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

Roman Abramovich has shelved Chelsea's £1billion new stadium plans and has reportedly withdrawn his application for an investor visa to the United Kingdom in retaliation to the hardline attitude of the Home Office.

And Abramovich is also playing a game of poker over Chelsea's managerial situation, with the billionaire waiting to see whether Maurizio Sarri's lawyers can force his exit from Napoli, while head coach Antonio Conte waits to find out his fate.

The incredible situation playing out at Stamford Bridge leaves supporters fearing the Blues are stuck in limbo and falling behind their rivals both off and on the pitch, despite Chelsea's insistence that Abramovich remains committed to the club.

It appears that Abramovich and Chelsea have been caught up in the diplomatic tensions between Russia and England after the UK Government suggested it would take a harder line on Russian oligarchs in Britain following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March.

Following a delay over his application for the renewal of his visa, which resulted in him missing Chelsea's FA Cup success at Wembley, the Home Office warned that Abramovich may have to account for his vast wealth before being allowed back into the UK.

Abramovich has since relocated to Israel and can now travel to the UK without a visa. But the 51-year-old cannot work in England and that has prompted him to put Chelsea's new stadium project on hold with no promise that it will be resurrected.

The 'Jerusalem Post' has also claimed that Abramovich has now withdrawn his application for an investor visa, which places serious doubt over the new stadium ever being revisited under his ownership.

A brief statement from Chelsea said: "Chelsea Football Club announces today that it has put its new stadium project on hold. No further pre-construction design and planning work will occur.

Abramovich could have put the money together to go ahead with the new stadium, which would cost over £1bn, but the Home Office stance left him with no desire to invest into the capital city of a country in which he cannot work. Talks have been held regarding replacing Conte with Sarri, but Chelsea have been unwilling to pay compensation to Napoli after the Italian club appointed Carlo Ancelotti.

A clause in Sarri's contract that would allow him to leave Napoli for £7m expires at midnight last night, but Chelsea have been unmoved by that particular deadline.

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