Chelsea Football Club announced today that it has put its new stadium project on hold. The club laconically added that "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 unfavorable investment climate."
No more details were provided as to why the grandiose $1.3 billion plan to demolish the existing stadium and build Europe's most expensive stadium with 60,000 seats on the same site was suspended. However, the British media has been quick to link putting the plan on hold to the current impasse in which the club's owner Roman Abramovich has been denied a visa on his Russian passport so that he has not been able to enter the UK for the past two months.
Meanwhile the "Jerusalem Post" reported that sources close to Abramovich say he has withdrawn his request for a UK visa.
The visa had been 'delayed' as part of the diplomatic spat between Britain and Russia over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury earlier this year. Both have since recovered.
Earlier this week, Abramovich immigrated to Israel and is expected to spend more time in Tel Aviv where he bought a home for NIS 100 million in 2015. With an Israeli passport, Abramovich will be entitled to enter Britain as a tourist but the British government was quick to point out that he would not be allowed to work.
Putting the $1.3 billion development plan on hold is being interpreted as a clear sign that Abramovich is freezing investments in the UK and many familiar with the stand-off had predicted that if the UK government did not back down over his 'delayed' visa, then he would sell the club. If the reports are true that Abramovich has indeed withdrawn his UK visa request, it may be too late to persuade the Russian billionaire to continbue investing in the UK.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 31, 2018
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