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Chelsea Halts New Soccer Stadium Plans Amid Uncertainties Over Russian Oligarch Owner

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

Uncertainty surrounding Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich's ownership of Britain’s Chelsea soccer team deepened on May 31 when the club abruptly halted plans to build a new stadium in west London, citing an unfavorable climate to invest in the $665 million project.

The announcement comes after it emerged that Abramovich was yet to have his British visa renewed amid a crackdown by authorities on associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Chelsea is yet to comment on its future with Abramovich, who this week flew into Israel to receive Israeli citizenship.

The statement announcing the suspension of the west London development project pointed to concerns about Chelsea's willingness to invest in a new 60,000-seat stadium.

Planning approval had already been received from local authorities to replace Chelsea’s existing 41,000-capacity venue, but the club says it has "put its new stadium project on hold."

"No further preconstruction design and planning work will occur," the Chelsea statement said. "The club does not have a time frame set for reconsideration of its decision. The decision was made due to the current unfavorable investment climate."

Chelsea has other issues to deal with as well. The team this year failed to qualify for the Champions League after finishing fifth in the Premier League.

Abramovich has overseen more than $1 billion in spending since taking over Chelsea in 2003, turning the team into a force that has won five Premier League titles and the Champions League.

But the spending has slowed in recent years as Abramovich sought to make Chelsea more self-sufficient to comply with financial fair-play rules.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and BBC

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