Following Roman Abramovich’s decision to shelve the approved and almost ready-to-go plans for the rebuild of Stamford Bridge, an understandable response to his ongoing visa situation that currently prevents him from actually working in the UK, (equally understandable) rumors of potentially wavering commitment to Chelsea Football Club have emerged as well.
Rumors may not be worth much most of the time, but in this case, they certainly (and unsurprisingly) piqued the interest of other business interests, some of which have apparently even tested the waters. The most prominent of those, as reported by the Daily Mail, is Britain’s richest person, Jim Ratcliffe, whose own petro-fueled wealth doubles up Abramovich at a cool £20+ billion. With the top football clubs in the world valued around £2-3 billion these days, Ratcliffe, a Chelsea season ticket-holder, could certainly afford to buy his local club (even if he’s a Manchester United fan). But his offer of £2 billion was “swiftly repelled”, as were “a number” of other approaches, including from China.
Chelsea had moved to dissuade rumors of any wavering commitment by the current owner almost as soon as the (indefinite?) delay was announced, with Sky Sports reporting that Abramovich remains committed to the club he’s owned for the past 15 years and helped finance into one of the best in the world during that time, but the idea that this could be the first step in an eventual end to the Roman Era lingers.
If Abramovich decided to or was forced to sell, Chelsea would probably survive just fine. When he arrived in 2003, few predicted that he would show the commitment (both in terms of finances and actual support) that he has shown since. He’s proved long ago that the club isn’t just a flight of fancy or a money-laundering scheme or just a passing phase for him, and chances are, that will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.