Roman Abramovich stalls stadium plans after visa delay

Chelsea owner had planned a redevlopment of home ground which is now put on hold

Roman Abramovich has put a £1bn scheme to redevelop Stamford Bridge on hold after suffering delays in the renewal of his visa to enter the UK. Photo: Matt Dunham/File

Roman Abramovich has put a £1bn scheme to redevelop Stamford Bridge on hold after suffering delays in the renewal of his visa to enter the UK. Photo: Matt Dunham/File

 

Roman Abramovich has put a £1bn scheme to redevelop Stamford Bridge on hold after suffering delays in the renewal of his visa to enter the UK.

Chelsea confirmed on Thursday that plans to transform their home of 113 years into a 60,000-seat arena had been postponed. A 49-word statement published on their website pointed to the “current unfavourable investment climate” as a key factor. Yet the Home Office’s delay in renewing Abramovich’s visa is understood to have prompted the owner’s decision to shelve the scheme.

Abramovich is apparently reluctant to invest heavily in a major project in the capital of a country where he is not allowed to work. Abramovich, who has been a regular visitor to Britain since buying Chelsea in 2003 but does not hold an employment position at the club, secured Israeli citizenship this week and is to move to Tel Aviv. Although he would be able to visit the UK visa-free for up to six months at a time on an Israeli passport, Downing Street has confirmed he would not be permitted to work in this country.

The Jerusalem Post reported the 51-year-old had withdrawn his request for a British investor visa, with his previous tier one visa, which allows anyone who invests more than £2m in the British economy to stay for 40 months, having been granted before tighter regulations were introduced in April 2015. The government has since begun a further crackdown on wealthy investors coming to the UK after the Salisbury poisoning, increasing tensions between Britain and Russia.

Chelsea are insistent Abramovich remains as committed to the club as ever, and will continue to invest funds for transfers. However, the move to redevelop Stamford Bridge had partly been motivated by the prospect of increased match-day revenues, which would allow the Premier League side to be more competitive in the transfer market while complying with Uefa’s financial fair play regulations. In that regard, the decision to put plans on hold would appear to damage the club’s long-term ability to compete.

“Chelsea has put its new stadium project on hold,” the club’s statement said. “No further pre-construction design and planning work will occur. The club does not have a time frame set for reconsideration of its decision. The decision was made due to the current unfavourable investment climate.” – Guardian service

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