Headlines earlier today (once again) boldly proclaimed that the sale of Chelsea could (once again) “fall apart” thanks to (once again) the UK government’s latest “alarm” about the handling and fate of the £1.54b debt (which seems to have now been permanently rounded up to £1.6b).
Basically, it was the same story as a couple weeks ago, based on a similar government briefing citing an anonymous “Whitehall source” posturing against the Big Bad of the piece, Roman Abramovich. The Telegraph, the BBC, The Times, Sky, and probably many more (once again) all just ran with those quotes, all at the same time (hello briefing!), doing just about zero actual journalism (once again).
Revealed: The £4.25bn takeover of Chelsea FC has been thrown into fresh doubt amid “concerns” in Whitehall about assurances being provided by the Roman Abramovich. A failure to secure the licence needed to expedite the sale by the end of May could be disastrous. More soon.— Mark Kleinman (@MarkKleinmanSky) May 16, 2022
That may work for transfer rumors, but there’s a bit more at stake here. As conditioned and as accepting as we may be of the never-ending deluge of absolute bullcrap published in the football media on an hourly basis, you would hope that the importance of the club’s actual fate would result in better coverage with a more critical eye ... but we’ve been proven wrong
once again over and over in that regard.
The fearmongering two weeks ago was quickly debunked with a phone call to the politicians actually involved in this process, a rare statement on behalf of Roman Abramovich reaffirming his intentions, and a common sense (!) idea of a “backstop” was even floated since the handling of this debt specifically shouldn’t really matter to the sales process itself. Once the club changes hands, the government and Abramovich and Raine Group (who are handling the actual transaction) can figure out the details with all their sanctions and frozen accounts and whatnot, and (presumably) leave us alone.
This time around, the fearmongering was (once again) quickly put to bed with a simple phone call to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who are in fact (once again) not alarmed and are working through this process diligently. There’s plenty of bureaucratic red tape to deal with here, and those things take time — even in this accelerated deal.
The notion of "alarm" in Whitehall at the Chelsea sale falling through is being denied by my DCMS sources. Abramovich has an independent advisor engaging with the government. The sale paperwork only arrived last week. There are still key points to be resolved, though...— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) May 16, 2022
As reported by CBS’s Ben Jacobs, the process remains on track to complete before the end of the month, and the expiration of our current operational licence, as well as the deadline for Premier League registration, which is June 8. It’s obviously not a straightforward deal, though thanks largely to the government’s own making, their constant desire to massage the optics of the situation, and to make things seemingly as complicated for us as possible isn’t helpful.
Abramovich's people continue to maintain he is cooperating with the government and the sale. Hurdles (and still some negotiation) are to be expected, especially in a takeover of this complexity. But a sale is still expected to be completed and, as far as I am being told, on time.— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) May 16, 2022
Meanwhile, in a related development, the former CEO of UNICEF UK and Soccer Aid, Mike Penrose, has apparently been recruited to head up the prospective Foundation that is set to be established with the proceeds of Chelsea’s sale. Penrose already wants the politicians to [FUN] right off from this process, which is probably an excellent first step.
Penrose, who is currently in eastern Ukraine, has just told me that he has never spoken to or met Roman Abramovich, and believes that if politics are removed from the creation of the new foundation, it could benefit the lives of millions of people. 2/3— Mark Kleinman (@MarkKleinmanSky) May 16, 2022