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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Chelsea's Roman empire
By Stuart Roach

Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground
Stamford Bridge is the scene of a huge takeover
Chelsea fans would not have known whether to laugh or cry when the news of British football's biggest takeover first broke.

The arrival of Roman Abramovich and the end of chairman Ken Bates' 21-year reign was either the best news of the summer or the sad end of an era, depending on any given Chelsea fan's point of view.

Bates took the club from the brink of financial ruin to a place in the Champions League during a 21-year rollercoaster ride for Blues' fans.

Yet he made enemies along the way and success came at a huge cost, with an estimated 80m debt part of the legacy Bates has left.

So what does the start of the Roman empire mean to Chelsea Football Club?

Chelsea defender William Gallas
Gallas insists he wants to stay at Chelsea
They can keep their stars:

Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola may have returned to Cagliari but there is still time for the club to draw up acceptable new deals for a number of their players.

William Gallas will be first on the list after insisting he wants to stay at Chelsea despite reported interest from Barcelona.

And Marcel Desailly's 60,000 a week deal will soon need renegotiating too.

Chelsea chairman Ken Bates
Bates has agreed to sell Chelsea
They can seriously challenge for the big names:

"In today's football market, the club will benefit from a new owner with deeper pockets," Bates said of the impending change.

The club have been linked with the likes of David Dunn, Harry Kewell and Geremi this summer but have never been regarded as serious contenders.

That could all now change with a huge injection of cash and the promise that Chelsea are a football superpower of the future.

Debts will be tackled:

Ibramovic's takeover will not mean the club's reported 80m simply disappears overnight, but it will instil confidence that payments can be met.

The majority of the debt is due to be repaid within the next five years and the club had taken steps to ensure that 18m be put aside every year until 2007 over and above their annual operating costs.

The Russian oil tycoon will underwrite that commitment to ensure the club does not spiral into the problems faced by Leeds United in recent seasons.

Russian tycoon Roman Abramovic
Roman Abramovic is planning a takeover worth 140m
Fulham ground share talks back on:

Ibramovic may have deeper pockets than his predecessor, but they are not bottomless.

Any business deal set to generate funds for the club would be entertained by the new owner, whose hard business approach will overwhelm any romantic appeal of keeping their home to themselves.

But any Ibramovic scheme could be scuppered by planning regularities, with the local council indicating that it would take six months to secure permission.

Power struggle:

Chelsea fans' excitement at the potential new deal may be tempered by concerns over confusion in the boardroom.

Bates always said he would only ever leave Stamford Bridge in a wooden box.

That intent does not appear to have altered, despite his intention to sell up.

Though Ibramovic intends to install three of his business partners on the Chelsea Village board, he plans to remain out of the picture himself on a daily basis.

Bates will stay on as chairman indefinitely and that may lead to something of a power struggle within the club.

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