The story is slowly coming together.
The Sunday Times were on to something, but they got the details wrong. They had about half the story correct. They sniffed out the hiring of Raine Group, a consultancy group with a wide range of services. They assumed that this meant that Abramovich was looking to sell the club, even though that’s been repeatedly denied over the past couple months, with at least one bid from the UK’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, knocked back in June.
In fairness, if Abramovich looked at Chelsea purely as an investment vehicle, collecting £2-2.5 billion on a £140 million purchase would be quite tremendous, even if we discount it by the roughly £1 billion he’s sunk into the club since (mostly counted as an interest-free loan that he’s owed by Chelsea’s parent company, Fordstam). But Abramovich isn’t into Chelsea as an investment. He’s into it as a fan, or so we believe. We might never truly know his intentions; we can only look at the evidence of constant re-investment and the drive to be the best.
So, if Roman isn’t looking to sell, why hire the wheelers and dealers of Raine? The same group helped sell a 13 per cent stake in Manchester City a few years ago to outside investors and it would appear Chelsea are looking for something similar. This version of the story was first broached by the Mail on Monday. Yesterday, the Telegraph chimed in as well, with the understanding that if Raine can help secure outside investment of some kind, the stadium rebuild “could be” kickstarted back to life “within month” and certainly “before the end of the year”.
Chelsea investment could thaw Stamford Bridge redevelopment plans https://t.co/39tNY6DG4n— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) August 28, 2018
The idea of financing the stadium not just out of the pocket of the admittedly uber-wealthy owner isn’t a new or shocking idea — it makes perfect business sense (including stadium naming rights) and it has been around for over a year at least, if not since the very beginning of the current plans to tear down and rebuild from the ground up — but the project halt and the owner’s visa issues a few months ago changed the conversation. Now we look to be getting back on track, even if the visa issues are far from sorted.
Before the halt, Chelsea were hoping to (finally) get underway next summer (2019) with pre-work at the site (including work over the railways and the surrounding buildings like the Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions) and then moving out in 2020 to a location yet to be determined (but Wembley, most likely), and coming back by 2024. Should we secure (the first phase of?) outside investment, perhaps those plans could still be adhered to, though the plans for the rail lines possibly isn’t quite set in stone yet.