Chelsea put stadium plans on hold after Roman Abramovich visa delay

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Aerial view of proposed new Stamford Bridge
The redeveloped Stamford Bridge will be Europe's most expensive stadium at £1bn

Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich has put the club's stadium plans on hold after delays to the renewal of his UK visa.

The estimated cost for a new 60,000 seat Stamford Bridge has increased to £1bn after delays, which included a dispute with a local family.

Abramovich is unwilling to invest in a major project in a country where he is not allowed work.

The 51-year-old's UK investor visa expired some weeks ago.

In 2015, changes to the visa process mean applicants may be required to to prove the originsexternal-link of their wealth.

But it is understood that Abramovich's decision will have no impact on the running of the football team.

The delay in issuing him a new visa comes amid increased diplomatic tensions between London and Moscow after the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

The UK government has refused to comment on his individual case.

Chelsea issued a statement saying the club had delayed work on Stamford Bridge because of "the current unfavourable investment climate".

It added: "No further pre-construction design and planning work will occur. The club does not have a time frame set for reconsideration of its decision."

Plans were under consideration to move Chelsea matches to Wembley stadium for the four years it would take to redevelop Stamford Bridge.

Although the future of Wembley is in doubt after Fulham owner Shahid Khan offered £600m to buy the stadium from the Football Association, it is not thought to be a factor in Chelsea's decision.

Christian Purslow, who left his role as managing director last year after three seasons at the club, said: "It's been a very difficult project. Costs have skyrocketed.

"I have thought for some time it's a project that would not get off the ground. It was always an extremely marginal project financially and a very difficult project practically. I think it's a really sensible decision to put this on hold."

The Chelsea football club owner's visa expired three weeks ago