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Concerns remain over how to handle Chelsea’s £1.5b ‘debt’ to Abramovich

Speculative speculation

Chelsea v Brentford - Premier League Photo by Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Today’s bit of scaremongering posing as journalism comes from the experts in such fare, The Times, who claim that “the sale of Chelsea has hit a serious obstacle over fears that Russian-born owner Roman Abramovich is attempting to renege on his promise to write off a £1.6 billion debt”.

Can you hit a serious obstacle over the fear of hitting a serious obstacle? I wouldn’t trust these people to drive my car. They’d swerve right off the edge of the cliff fearing a big boulder right around a corner, especially if it’s Russian-born. (In fairness, I wouldn’t trust anybody to drive my car, but I digress.)

So, what’s the deal with this debt, which has now been rounded up to £1.6b from £1.54b, which isn’t how math works? Maths work?

Over the past two decades, Roman Abramovich poured all that money into Chelsea, and when he decided to (was forced to) divest from the club, for the good of our future existence, he most generously and incredibly magnanimously declared that he’s forgiving all that debt and simply writing it off. What’s writing off mean? I don’t know, but they’re the ones writing it off. (Much to the chagrin of the rest of the league.)

However, Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK Government since that declaration, including a freezing of all his assets, which evidently means that he literally cannot write off any of that debt at the moment. (Though it’s the government making all these rules, so...?)

And how does one pay off debt that’s frozen in the first place — debt that technically isn’t even on Chelsea Football Club, but rather owed by our parent company, Fordstam, to another financial entity, called Camberley Investments Limited. Camberley are based in Jersey, which also recently sanctioned Abramovich by freezing all his accounts and assets. (Are the UK Government trying to prevent this money ending up in Jersey instead?)

Those (and similar) questions all must be answered to the government’s satisfaction as we enter the last phase (hopefully) of the Chelsea sale process. The club’s licenced to operate through the end of this month, and if the sale doesn’t go through by then, or that licence is not extended, or a different licence isn’t put into place ... then Chelsea could conceivably not be allowed to rejoin the Premier League for next season. I bet that would make for a good tweet, right, Rob Draper?

But chances are, this is all just speculative hot air, based on some rather unlikely outcomes, including Abramovich suddenly turning extra-petty on his (supposedly) beloved Chelsea.

The government essentially forcing Chelsea to go out of business would also not be a good look, to say the least, regardless of their desires for grandstanding and points-scoring or credit-taking and grassroots-football-posing. While they already tried to end the war in Ukraine by preventing us from giving Antonio Rüdiger a new contract, destroying a 117-year cultural institution through their own clownery is surely a step too far even for them (he said naïvely).

The £1.5b “debt” remains earmarked for charitable contributions, adding to the £1b paid up-front at some point, once all these financial details get figured out. In the meantime, we can hopefully finalize the rest of this transaction with Boehly’s group — Jim Ratcliffe hovering in the background still, apparently — and get on with our footballing lives.