Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has put the club’s new £1 billion stadium on hold, after UK’s immigration office delayed his visa renewal to enter the country.
Club representatives say it’s not a ploy by the owner
Since Abramovich took over the club in the summer of 2003, effectively revolutionizing the English football scene overnight, the London side have been looking at expanding their existing ground Stamford Bridge or moving away to a new stadium altogether. It seems that after years of discussions and failed proposals, the former plan has prevailed as last year animated images emerged of Chelsea’s new refurbished ground that would seat 60,000 and would have a staggering price tag of £1 billion.
According to online sportsbook news, construction plans were already underway to begin work on the new Stamford Bridge, however the Russian oligarch owner has pulled the plug on that, for now at least. The immigration office have denied him a visa to reenter the country, since he does not hold an official employment position at the club, despite him being the owner through his investment firm Millhouse Capital.
The UK authorities have imposed more stringent regulations for Russian nationals in recent months, which follows on the back of the heels of recent diplomatic escalations involving the UK and Russia, after the Salisbury incident that saw former double spy Sergei Skripal.
Shelving the new £1bn stadium plans is being regarded as a power move by Abramovich, which could force the immigration office to grant the oligarch’s his visa renewal. Officials from Chelsea on the other hand insist that’s not case, but rather that it’s down to lack of investment opportunities required to build the expand Stamford Bridge into a 60,000 seater stadium.
Stamford Bridge’s expansion to 60,000 seats will cost £1bn
“Chelsea has put its new stadium project on hold,” a statement from the club read. “No further pre-construction design and planning work will occur. The club does not have a time frame set for reconsideration of its decisions. The decision was made due to the current unfavourable investment climate.”
Abramovich ushered in an era of prosperity for Chelsea
Before the Russian billionaire bought Chelsea in 2003, they only won the league once (in 1955) since being founded in 1905. But merely two years after his takeover, the Stamford Bridge side were already celebrating their first Premier League triumph in 50 years. Since 2003, Chelsea have won the domestic league five times (2005, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2017) and the Champions League once (2012), among loads of other accolades. Today the club is worth more than £1.4bn which is a far cry from what it used to be before his reign as owner.
In efforts to reenter the UK, Abramovich has flown into Tel Aviv where he obtained his rightful Israeli citizenship, due to his Jewish background, per online sportsbooks in Israel. This way, the UK authorities will treat him as a standard case when dealing with his visa application, instead of the newly imposed strict rules that Russians are observed with.