LONDON, May 7 — Chelsea have some clarity after an uncertain few months with the consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly set to buy the Premier League giants.
The Boehly group, which includes fellow Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss and US investment firm Clearlake Capital have committed to a deal worth £4.25 billion (US$5.2 billion), a record for a sports club.
A sum of £1.75 billion is earmarked for future investment in the club with the other £2.5 billion frozen due to the sanctions imposed on current owner Roman Abramovich.
The Russian oligarch has insisted his intention is for all of the proceeds to be donated to victims of the war in Ukraine.
The sale brings to an end Abramovich’s 19-year reign during which the Blues have enjoyed unparallelled success.
Chelsea won five Premier League titles and two Champions League among 19 major trophies.
But the Abramovich era was brought down by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he was sanctioned by the UK government for his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
AFP Sport looks at the job that lies ahead for the future Chelsea owners.
The bulk of the future financial commitment to the club is expected to go on redeveloping Stamford Bridge into a stadium worthy of one of Europe’s elite clubs.
Abramovich shelved plans for a £1 billion redevelopment in 2018 during another dispute with the UK government over his visa.
Stamford Bridge’s 42,000 capacity lags well behind Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.
Spurs’ £1 billion home, completed in 2019, has become a sporting hub in the English capital, hosting major boxing, rugby and NFL events, as well as concerts and conferences.
Boehly’s track record of both sporting success and stadium redevelopment at the Dodgers gave his bid credibility to go with the major funding behind it.
Investment in the stadium was reportedly a key part of the consortium’s pitch to American bank Raine, who oversaw the sales process.
A larger ground will also be part of the long-term strategy to drive revenue and recoup their huge outlay to buy the European champions.
Stabilise the squad
Chelsea have been operating under a special licence for the past two months since sanctions were levied on Abramovich.
Due to the restrictions applied, the Blues were not allowed to offer new contracts or sign new players.
Defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are set to leave on free transfers at the end of the season and will need to be replaced.
Abramovich’s lavish spending means he leaves behind a very competitive squad.
Just a year ago, Chelsea beat Manchester City to win the Champions League and are on course to finish in the Premier League top four.
With clarity over their future, the club can now work towards assembling a squad to challenge City and Liverpool for the title next season.
“When the situation is clear you can take actions, make judgements,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel on Friday.
Get fan support
Much to the dismay of politicians, Abramovich’s name was still chanted by Chelsea fans following the sanctions thanks to the success he had bankrolled over the past two decades.
Winning will be the quickest way into the hearts of the Chelsea faithful for the new ownership, but there are other pitfalls to be avoided.
There are fears that to see a return on their investment, the deeply unpopular European Super League could be revived for the guaranteed income it sought to provide.
Fans have also taken issue with American ownership of other Premier League clubs.
Protests have been a common occurence outside Old Trafford this season with Manchester United supporters furious at the dividends taken out of the club by the Glazer family during a decade of decline.
Fenway Sports Group have enjoyed much greater success reviving the fortunes of Liverpool, but have also been pressured into climbdowns on ticket prices and signing up to the Super League by fan fury. — AFP