Finance experts have warned that Chelsea could face going out of business if the government sanctions Roman Abramovich, while several suitors are reportedly considering a takeover bid.
There have been increasing calls for ministers to seize or freeze the billionaire’s UK-based assets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Abramovich not included in the first wave of sanctions.
Labour MP Chris Bryant revealed last week that Abramovich had been identified as a person of interest by the Home Office ‘due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices’.
Bryant even suggested that the government should seize Chelsea from the 55-year-old, though such a move could see Abramovich demand that the club repay him the £1.5billion he has invested and would therefore be owed.
Kieran Maguire, a football finance lecturer at Liverpool University, told The Times: ‘If he feels he is being made a scapegoat for the activities of Putin then the worst-case scenario is he tries to call in the loan.
‘Then we’ve got a crisis. He and Putin could argue that it is the British government that has destroyed Chelsea Football Club.’
Dr Rob Wilson, a finance lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, has similar concerns, saying: ‘If the government do seize the assets, in which case they seize Chelsea, that is probably for him a bit of a final straw.
Chelsea have ‘already fielded one enquiry this month’, with Ineos founder and chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe said to be interested – though he was previously put off by the price tag quoted.
The west London club is valued at £1.5billion by KPMG and a takeover would therefore be the largest deal in football history, dwarfing the £300m Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund spent on Newcastle at the end of last year.
Ratcliffe has long been interested in buying Chelsea and even held preliminary talks, but was put off by the costs of redeveloping the club’s stadium and infrastructure.
‘There were some early exchanges but we were a significant way apart on valuations,’ Sir Jim’s brother Bob, who runs the football division at Ineos, told BBC 5 Live recently.
‘The issue with Chelsea is its stadium. We are all getting older and it is a decade of your life to resolve that.’