Roman Abramovich visa denial behind Chelsea stadium decision

Former Chelsea board member Christian Purslow believes the club's decision to half their plans for a new stadium are related to the denial of a new UK visa for owner Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich’s decision to halt Chelsea’s plans to build a new stadium is related to delays to the renewal of his UK visa, according to former board member Christian Purslow.

Along with the estimated cost of the 60,000-seat stadium having risen to £1bn, the Chelsea owner has reportedly had difficulty in extending his UK investor visa.

Purslow, who left the club in 2017 after three years as head of global commercial activities, believes the timing of the announcement was intended to cause a stir.

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“The context of the timing of an announcement to put the stadium on the hold was within a week of huge news stories about Mr Abramovich not having his visa renewed,” Purslow said.

“So I think we can reasonably conclude that in deciding to announce that today, those two factors are inter-related.

“Mr Abramovich as an international businessman, international investor who has made a lot of his life in Britain, is saying, ‘I was going to do a massive economic project in your city and if you’re making it difficult for me to be here, why would I do that?’ And I think most people would understand that.”

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The stadium is not the only issue the west London club are facing, after another turbulent season at Stamford Bridge.

Having finished fifth in the Premier League – 30 points behind champions Manchester City – and missed out on Champions League qualification for next season, manager Antonio Conte is expected to depart this summer.

The club has been heavily linked with outgoing Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, but Chelsea’s interest appears to have cooled due to the 60-year-old’s off-field behaviour.

Despite the uncertainty, Purslow believes the Chelsea hierarchy have displayed their ability to make the right decisions in testing times.

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“I think there are significant challenges this summer on that side of things but that’s been true quite recently,” Purslow said.

“When Jose Mourinho left the second time there was a great deal of uncertainty, concern… fans worried about where they went.”

“They made an appointment in Antonio Conte that wasn’t expected and wasn’t received hugely positively and they win the league in his first year so the track record on making those appointments is really very good.”