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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Banks calls for Chelsea probe
Chelsea chairman Ken Bates
Ken Bates has been in charge at Chelsea for more than 20 years
Former Sports Minister Tony Banks has called for an investigation into the sale of Chelsea to Russian businessman Roman Abramovich.

Abramovich has agreed to buy a controlling interest in Chelsea Village - the company which owns the club - from chairman Ken Bates in a deal believed to be worth a total of 140m.

But Chelsea fan Banks insists he will ask current Sports Minister Richard Caborn to verify that Abramovich has sound business credentials before the deal is allowed to go ahead.

"I want to know whether this individual is a fit and proper person to be taking over a club like Chelsea," Banks told the BBC.

"Until that question is answered then I'm afraid the jury is out.

"I would have preferred that the takeover of Chelsea had been done after these questions were answered.


"A sale has been arranged to an individual we know nothing about.

"Ken has not let us down in the past but I'm going to ask some very serious questions to Richard Caborn."

Former Football Task Force chairman and life-long Chelsea fan David Mellor has welcomed the arrival of Abramovich, but is concerned about what could happen if things do not go as planned.

"What I think that we have to hope, as Chelsea fans, is the kind of investment that is being talked of will give Chelsea a good run-out in the Champions League," Mellor told BBC Radio Five Live.

"This is a power-play by an extremely wealthy man... and as far as he is concerned, Chelsea Football Club is a fitting vehicle for his ambitions.

"If money can buy success, there is a fair chance that Chelsea might achieve.

"I think the worrying thing is when people buy football clubs that they regard as a play-thing and the rest of us have invested quite a lot of our life interest in, that they become bored.

"For better or for worse, this is petty cash to Abramovich, but quite what he is going to make of it remains to be seen."

Former Chelsea striker Kerry Dixon believes the takeover of the club could transform its fortunes.

"Chelsea is a big club in the west of London and looking to move up," said Dixon.

"If the 80m debt was to be wiped out then all of a sudden Chelsea could become one of the big clubs, not just in the Premiership but in Europe too.

"A lot of fans will look at the deal and be a little bit sceptical and there will be a lot of questions to be asked, but I'm sure Ken will have asked all these questions himself."

Malcolm Carle, chairman of the North West Chelsea Supporters Club, said: "When I first heard I was very concerned that Chelsea was being bought up by foreign ownership.

"But looking at the fact that he [Abramovich] seems to be very wealthy, it could be a good thing."

BBC News' Mike Sergeant
"Fans at Stamford Bridge are stunned"

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