‘Anything could happen’ if Abramovich visa is not issued – Birch

Chelsea: Roman Abramovich

Former Chelsea chief executive Trevor Birch has told BBC Radio 4 he believes the delay in renewing Roman Abramovich’s visa has left the club facing a period of uncertainty.

The visa issue is widely believed to be the main reason for Chelsea owner Abramovich putting the club’s planned redevelopment of Stamford Bridge on hold.

And Birch, who oversaw the sale of Chelsea to Abramovich, told the Today programme: “I wasn’t really surprised (by the news) because it’s obviously linked to the visa situation.

“There have been some rising costs in the stadium and it’s a difficult project to deliver – but I think this is clearly Roman upping the ante in the spat with the Home Office.”

Chelsea: Trevor Birch
Birch was appointed by Chelsea in 2002

Birch has also been chief executive at Everton and Leeds and now works for global finance advisors Duff & Phelps.

He was previously a professional footballer, playing for the likes of Chester City and Shrewsbury Town.

‘Eminently sellable’

He added: “If the visa issue isn’t resolved I think anything could happen. I think there’s obviously a great deal of concern around at the moment.

“The Chelsea fans now face the prospect of no stadium, no manager and no star player if Eden Hazard moves to Real Madrid.

“But I think it’s eminently sellable as a club, based in west London. With TV rights increasing, if Manchester United is valued at over £3billion I think Chelsea is valued at £1.5billion – and very attractive.

“Of course to maintain the value of his investment he needs to invest in players – and he didn’t last season.”