With Roman Abramovich sanctioned and now disqualified from being a football club owner, as well as the backlash that met the Saudi government’s takeover of Newcastle United, it seems as though a day of reckoning for who is allowed to own English clubs is nigh.
To that end, you suspect the Chelsea are dicing with disaster if they consider the latest acquisition bid they have received from the Middle East.
Saudi Media, the largest media group in the Arab world, has weighed in with an offer of £2.7 billion to buy the London club….although nobody outside of the inner circle quite knows who gets to decide whether to accept or reject it.
Given that Abramovich has relinquished ownership of Chelsea as part of his sanctioning, does that mean that the UK government ultimately decides on whether to sell to Saudi Media?
Minister are currently controlling the flow of money into and out of the 2021 Champions League winners, with a freeze on ticket and merchandise sales and even a cap on how much the Blues are able to spend on travel to away fixtures.
Mohamed Alkhereiji, the owner of Saudi Media and a self-confessed Chelsea fan, is spearheading the takeover bid alongside a consortium of other investors from the country – although none is said to be linked to the aristocracy, which is not the case with Newcastle’s ownership outfit PIF.
Alkhereiji has extensive links to London after studying at the city’s Business School and working at Deutsche Bank in the capital for a number of years, and for that reason it is believed that the government may be more willing to negotiate the sale of Chelsea – whether Abramovich likes it or not – to the media magnate.
But, as ever, is everything as it seems?
Friends in High Places
You don’t have to try too hard to find pictures on the internet of Alkhereiji in the company of Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who has invested – indirectly, allegedly – in Newcastle United.
It has also been suggested that Mohammed bin Khalid Al Saud, who runs the state-controlled communications firm Saudi Telecom Company, is one of the private financiers adding heft to the Chelsea takeover bid.
So once more, there’s the moral dilemma of the growing influence of countries fond of a bit of ‘sportswashing’ investing so heavily in top-level sport seemingly without opposition.
Alkhereiji has spoken of his desire to expand Stamford Bridge beyond its current 41,000 capacity, redevelop the club’s academy facilities and invest in the women’s team, which is all noble enough.
But knowing where the bid’s finance is coming from – a regime that executed 81 people on Saturday alone for alleged ‘terrorist’ offences – should leave a bitter taste in the mouth of all those even considering such an offer.
Parties interested in buying Chelsea have until March 18 to submit their bids, with the UK government and American banking firm Raine thought to be in charge of the due diligence process.
It is thought that entrepreneur and Chelsea season ticket holder Nick Candy is in the running, along with US-led bids from Todd Boehly, the New York Jets’ owner Woody Johnson and the Ricketts family, who own MLB side Chicago Cubs.