SPECULATION is rife that Roman Abramovich is ready to sell part with his stake in Chelsea, ending a summer of rumours that the club’s glorious era might be about to end.
Matthew Syed of The Times said Abramovich’s arrival in 2003 represented a watershed in the game. It was the moment that clubs became “strategic rather than community or commercial assets.”
Syed describes the Russian’s acquisition as being “part of a multi-faceted shield from the Vladimir Putin government for the rigged auction from which Abramovich earned his net wealth”. Apparently, the money he poured into the club, particularly in the early years, didn’t matter. “He was leveraging the club’s cultural cachet, not its commercial potential.”
Abramovich started a trend that has included Manchester City’s backing from Abu Dhabi and Qatar buying Paris Saint-Germain. And it has broadened to include Gazprom’s sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League and various football clubs. They are all part of an agenda.
While Syed said Abramovich can be very satisfied with his purchase of Chelsea and he will go down as “a seminal figure in the history of football”.
The Times’ George Caulkin added that Chelsea have “thrived from a ceaseless state of flux”. By and large, the fans love the Abramovich era – recently acquired supporters will not be too aware of the suffering the club endured from the mid-1970s through to the 1980s, when a team that won prizes became a team with one foot in the old third division. As Caulkin said, the uncertainty over Abramovich represents “a threat to achievement”.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Abramovich is looking to offload a minority stake. Tom Morgan’s article adds that sources close to the oligarch say he is interested in attracting a new investor and this could mean an injection from China, the US or the Middle East.
Nevertheless, there have been the usual denials from the club insisting its owner is not looking to sell the club, while the less reliable segments of the media have gone as far as saying a price tag has been set. Metro suggests Abramovich is ready to sell at £ 2.5 billion, which would make any transaction the biggest in football history. Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe was reported to have made a £ 2 billion offer earlier in the summer.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail wrote that Abramovich will resume redevelopment work at Stamford Bridge, a project that was put on ice a few months ago – a decision that sparked the current wave of dialogue around his future involvement.
Read what Game of the People wrote earlier this year about Abramovich and Chelsea. Click here.