Chelsea sale possible by end of March

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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003

The American investment firm tasked with selling Chelsea expects a sale could happen by the end of the month after positive conversations with the UK government.

But after an agreement that the funds from the sale could go to a charitable organisation or into a frozen account, there is confidence the process of getting a new licence will be smooth.

The government issued a special licence to allow the club to continue operating after freezing Abramovich’s assets, citing his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, under the original terms of the licence, the club cannot be sold.

The deadline for bids has been extended to Friday 18 March, with more than 20 credible parties interested.

Any sale would need to satisfy the stipulations set out in the new licence, which would be issued once a preferred buyer had been highlighted.

The sale will also be subject to the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said earlier this month: “The quickest one we’ve done is 10 days, but that’s not to say it can’t be beaten.”

He added: “Normally it’s a matter of weeks but it depends on the complexities and the number of potential owners.”

American investment firm Raine Group issued a letter to potential buyers on Saturday assuring investors that it would be “moving forward with the sale process”.

It added: “We understand that the successful closing of the sale of Chelsea football club will require a special licence to be approved by the UK government, approving both the source and use of funds.

“We will work with authorities in the UK to obtain that licence in connection with any transaction.”

All parties are keen for a sale to proceed as soon as possible, given that Chelsea’s monthly wage bill is £28m and the government’s licence has effectively stopped matchday revenue, leaving Chelsea in an uncertain financial situation.

On Friday, the club’s credit cards were temporarily suspended while banks assess the implications of the sanctions imposed on Russian billionaire Abramovich, while Three has suspended its shirt sponsorship with the club.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s official spokesman has reiterated calls for Chelsea fans to stop singing Abramovich’s name.

Just as had happened during the Blues’ away win over Norwich last Thursday, a small section of fans chanted the Russian’s name for a brief period in the second half of the home win over Newcastle on Sunday.

“We recognise the strength of feeling around people’s clubs but that does not excuse behaviour that is completely inappropriate at this time,” said the prime minister’s spokesman.

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